Journeying with the Gospel of Luke
Sr Celine Mangan O.P
he Gospel of Luke is the gospel we will be living with on Sundays for the coming year. Luke invites us to journey with Jesus; we do that in a special way this year, the Year of Faith in the Church. Luke speaks of Jesus as Saviour, walking the roads of Palestine, spreading joy wherever he went, healing the sick, forgiving sin, being compassionate, especially to the oppressed and the outcast. Behind all his activity, Luke emphasises Jesus at prayer – in the desert, on mountain tops, in the Garden of Gethsemane and living out his life under the guidance of the Spirit.
Luke is a wonderful story-teller; he is, as Dante put it, “the scribe of the gentleness of Christ.” His picture of Jesus is in sharp contrast to the spare, urgent one of Mark, the teaching style of Matthew, or the theological insights of John. It is no accident that artists and musicians down the centuries often turned to his gospel to portray the life of Jesus. We have only to think of Fra Angelico’s “Annunciation,” for example, or Rembrandt’s “The Prodigal Son” and on the musical side we recall the countless settings of the Benedictus and Magnificat, not to mention Christmas carols, based on the Infancy stories. Many of the more appealing parables of the gospels are only found in Luke – for example, the story of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the story of the Woman who finds the Coin she had Lost. But Luke can portray the starkness of the gospel message too, showing Jesus standing in the prophetic tradition of the likes of Amos and Jeremiah, castigating the leaders of the people for their lack of a true understanding of God and his mercy.
Luke retells the story of Jesus so that it would find a place in the Roman world in which he lived. In fact one could say that Luke’s Gospel works at three different levels: he tells the story of Jesus’ own life-time, but in the context and with the nuances of the Old Testament world out of which he emerged, now told for Christians in their experience of the Roman world of their time. Luke often uses the word “today”. This is a call to us to do what Luke did: to update, as he did, the call of Jesus for our time and as Dominic did in his time.
When Dominic went on his journeys across Europe, we are told that he brought with him the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistles of Paul, but I think he travelled in the spirit of Luke – with joy in his heart, singing as he went and having a great concern for the outcast and the bewildered.
Sr Celine Mangan O.P