Saturday, October 18, 2008

The greatness of Luke (and his gospel)

El Greco. St. Luke. c. 1605-1610. Oil on canvas. Toledo Cathedral, Toledo, Spain

Today is the feast day in honor of St. Luke. I found a cool article that was made by sharing excerpts from a book about the Gospel of Luke, which was written by the great theologian (and among those who make my dream team pick for a great future Pope??) Cristoph Cardinal Schönborn.

This section is especially poignant-it emphasizes what makes the Gospel of Luke so special. Many Christians have spent time considering the greatness of the Gospel of John, for its depth of theological insight and the detail he puts on the prayers and sayings of our Lord just before His passion. But read what makes Luke special, and you may find yourself wanting to read through his gospel today. It's a small goal I've made in honor of St. Luke, and the One who is the Word.

Enough of my nonsense, here's that quote I promised:

"What picture would we have of Jesus without the parable of the good Samaritan? How much, altogether, would be missing from our picture of Jesus if we had no Gospel of Luke! I myself was almost horrified when I discovered, with the help of a synopsis (that is, a parallel edition of the four Gospels), how much of what is quite essential in our picture of Jesus is owed to Luke's alertness in bringing it all together.

Only he tells us the three parables about the way that God's love patiently seeks for us men: the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost penny, and above all—perhaps Jesus' best-known parable—the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15). What a marvelous picture of God Jesus offers us in this parable!

Only Luke has passed on to us the disturbing parable of the gluttonous rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31). And the parable of the Pharisee who praises himself before God and the tax collector who is sorrowfully aware of his sins (Lk 18:9-4)—how it speaks to us! That, too, is found only in Luke.

Thanks to Luke, we know a great deal about the life and the suffering of Jesus, such as is presented in the precious and impressive story about the wealthy little man Zacchaeus, who was not ashamed to climb a tree in order to be able to see Jesus, even though Zacchaeus was a despised "bloodsucker" (Lk 19:1-10).

Thanks to Luke, we know some important things about Jesus' Passion. Only Luke tells us about Jesus sweating blood during his sorrow unto death, about his agony, and about the angel sent to strengthen him (Lk 22:43-44). Only Luke has preserved the deeply disturbing little scene in which Jesus, after Peter's betrayal, turns around and looks at him. "And {he] wept bitterly", it says about Peter. That is how it is for everyone who meets that gaze in his heart-that gaze, free of all accusation, which brings tears of repentance for the betrayal of love (Lk 22:61-62).

Only Luke refers to the way that Jesus forgives not only Peter, his disciple who betrayed him, but also those who crucified him: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34).

Only Luke is able to tell us of the marvelous transformation brought about in the righteous thief by Jesus' loving forgiveness: "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power"—"Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23:42-43).

All these examples from the material peculiar to Luke show that the author has emphasized in a particular way Jesus' turning toward sinners, as well as his love for the poor, the sick, and those who have lost their way. Luke did not invent all that; he discovered it."

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