Every three years the Church rotates its Sunday gospel readings between the three so called “synoptic” Gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke. These three Gospels are very similar in content and structure, i.e., relating most of the same stories, incidents, sermons and events.
Even so, each provides its own perspective on the life of Christ and addresses its own particular audience. Each also offers its own unique characteristics, e.g., stories or details that do not appear in the others.
This Sunday we begin to read the Gospel of Luke, which we will continue to read on most Sundays through ordinary time. It is one of two books written by this author, the second being the Acts of the Apostles. The author, St. Luke, was a gentile (perhaps a proselyte, a convert to Judaism) physician from Antioch. Although not one of the apostles or original disciples who traveled with Jesus, Luke was a disciple of St. Paul, and accompanied him on many of his apostolic travels. This Gospel was written after the Gospels of Matthew and Mark and before the Gospel of John, probably no later than the year 62 or 63.
Among the key features of this Gospel are the very sophisticated language (especially in the original Greek), a keen eye for detail, and an effort to clarify the gospel for gentile readers. Most importantly, as the beginning of this Sunday’s text makes clear, Luke took great pains to present a historically accurate picture of the life of Jesus, “I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence.”
Among the unique details recorded by Luke are the story of the road to Emmaus, the promise of paradise to the good thief, the miracle of the raising of the widow of Naim’s son, and the parables of the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the rich man and Lazarus. But perhaps his greatest contribution to our historical knowledge of Jesus is his unique record of the facts surrounding Jesus’ human origins: the story of the birth of John the Baptist, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation and the finding of Christ in the Temple. Because of his knowledge of these intimate details many surmise that St. Luke may have received them from Our Lady herself.
Among the other incidents in the life of Jesus unique to Luke is the event recorded in the second part of this Sunday’s text (Lk 4:14-21). Although Matthew and Mark record that Jesus preached in Nazareth’s synagogue, only Luke relates the details of what He preached: specifically that He, the local carpenter, their neighbor and cousin, was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In some ways, this text summarizes the whole of the Gospel of Luke, and becomes even clearer if we read the verses which immediately follow it in scripture: the people were “filled with rage” at His words, and they tried to kill Him; but He escaped. This is a foreshadowing of the whole Gospel of Luke, and all the Gospels, which record that Jesus came to His own (first His fellow Nazarenes and then to all the Jews) to reveal Himself as the Christ. His own rejected Him and tried to kill Him, but in the end, Jesus escapes or overcomes death.
As we continue reading the Gospel of St. Luke this year, pray that the inspired words of “the beloved physician” may draw you into a deeper understanding of our Savior, so that His promises may be “fulfilled in your hearing.”
Fr. De Celles is Parochial Vicar of St. Michael Parish in Annandale.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)