The Gospel of Luke
Advent Reflections from Sister Katherine Jean Cowan
We can easily slip into a belief that what we know about Jesus is found in all four of the Gospels. While there is material common to all of the four gospels, each also has its unique flavor as well as unique incidents in the life of Jesus.
Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent and extending all the way from the Feast of Christ the King at the end of November 2019, the Sunday gospel readings are almost always from the Gospel of Luke.
Luke takes us into the heart of the good news through a series of journeys and meals.
The Jesus of Luke is always on the move. Even in the Infancy Narratives, there is that sense of movement: Mary visiting Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem and later taking the young Jesus to Jerusalem for Passover. In his public ministry following his time in the desert, Jesus moves from Galilee to Nazareth to Capernaum—and then onto many other towns.
The heart of the gospel is the journey to Jerusalem, encompassing 15 of the 24 chapters in Luke. It is a geographical journey; it is also a journey that will return him to his father to whom he turns to so frequently in prayer.
In the course of the journeys, we are invited into 10 different meals and also invited to listen to different parables involving meals. Some of the meals are formal, mirroring the Greek tradition that excluded women and involved serious discussion. The others, looking back to Biblical traditions, are simple, familial meals where the whole family is included and where guests are welcome. These meals can be very simple, taking place in a shop or living room; most of the people did not have dining rooms. The key ingredient is hospitality.
Within these two traditions, Luke weaves an emphasis on prayer and worship, on the work of the Spirit and on the outcasts of his world.
Not only is Jesus seen at prayer but he also gives instruction on prayer and uses parables to further explain it. The beginning of the Hail Mary comes from Luke’s gospel in Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary and our hymn of praise used often on Sundays begins with the angels’ greeting to the shepherds, “Glory to the God in the highest.”
It is clear that Luke sees the Spirit as an intimate part of Jesus’ life, but Luke tells us that this same Spirit is given to others as well.
Luke’s gospel gains a universal character through Luke’s inclusion of the marginalized: Samaritan and Gentile, tax collectors, women and the poor. None of these people had status in society at that time.
May our prayerful reading of and listening to the Gospel of Luke in the coming year hold abundant blessings for us.
Possible “mini” reflections for the four Sundays of Advent:
An elderly monk shared his practice reducing the day’s gospel to a simple word or phrase that he could easily remember throughout the day. Of the several words and phrases that present themselves in today’s reading, I would choose “stand erect.” It is tempting today to remain hidden and unaccounted for. What both our private and public worlds need is our standing tall in truth and compassion. How will I do that this week?
Today’s gospel calls us to “prepare” the Lord’s way. It is a call to action, to engagement, to on-going work. It is not meant to be something we have completed and no longer have to worry about. It does not mean that we have to be perfect in our efforts. Our God is most understanding of our stumbling along the way. We do need to pick ourselves back up. In the depths of our spirit, how are we preparing for Christmas?
John identified Jesus’ early work as baptizing with the Holy Spirit, a gift freely given. We often overlook the numerous times in both the Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament that the Spirit is mentioned. We are fortunate to live at a time when we are being reminded that the Spirit was present at the creation of the world and has never left. How often do we ask for the gift of the Spirit?
Elizabeth greeted Mary in astonishment that the mother of her Lord should come to her. How often and how many are the ways in which our God comes to us? Do we allow ourselves to be astonished?