Today, we hear John the Baptist proclaiming a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
But those are not his words! They are directly from the prophet Isaiah. Look it up: Chapter 40. And yet he uses them to preach a new message of the beginning of the Good News, a new Gospel! At the heart of that message?
- share your coat
- tax only what is necessary
- share food with anyone who has none
Basic stuff. Both mundane . . . and profound.
Advent is all about anticipation and preparation for the birth of Jesus. We know a very, very special guest is coming, and we’re excited and we literally can’t wait, but at the same time we must prepare our homes and our hearts to receive the special guest.
Advent also begins the new liturgical year, and so we have just begun the year of Luke. Why do we call it that? Simply because most of our Sunday gospel readings will come from Luke. Next year will be the year of Matthew, and after that the year of Mark & John. Then we start the cycle again.
What do we know about Luke and his Gospel account?
The year of Luke is also known as the year of Justice because Luke has the greatest emphasis on the spiritual journey of becoming a more compassionate and just people. But pay attention because Luke also places a strong emphasis on two other factors that I believe are integral to our charism here at St. Charles:
- the importance of prayer
- concern for the role of women
Here’s what a friend mine says about Luke. Imagine yourself as Luke. Scripture scholar Brian Singer-Towns wrote,
Imagine that you lived in a time when most people measured their importance by their power and wealth. Those who are poor and without status are at best ignored and at worst abused and scorned. That’s what the Roman Empire was like during the time of the first Christians. And then imagine that you are a physician with a deeply compassionate heart for people who are hurting. You hear of this movement whose members show love and compassion for all, especially for the poor and outcast. You join this movement and find out all you can about them and their founder. Eventually you write up their story to tell others about it. That’s very probably how the Gospel of Luke was written.
This year we will see the uniqueness of this gospel as we hear
salvation stories about the lost being found, and about sinners being forgiven and invited back. Only in Luke, for example, do we hear the story of the good Samaritan (see 10:29-37), the parable of the prodigal son (15:11-32), the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus (see 19:1-10).
Were it not for Luke’s Gospel we would not have Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (1:38).
Were it not for Luke’s Gospel we would not have Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (1:42-43).
Were it not for Luke’s Gospel we would not have that revolutionary song of salvation whose political, economic, and social dimensions cannot be blunted. People in need in every society hear an extraordinary blessing in Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), a piece of which we will hear next Sunday:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my savior . . .
God has brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly . . .
God has filled the hungry with good things
And sent the rich away empty . . .
The battered woman, the single parent without resources, those without food on the table or without even a table, the homeless family, the young abandoned to their own devices, the old who are discarded: all are encompassed in the hope Mary proclaims.
Words like these have real power. They can move hearts and change the course of history. Did you know . . .
Were it not for Luke’s Gospel, we would not honor Mary as the preeminent disciple of Jesus Christ.
Were it not for Luke’s Gospel, we would not have Jesus proclaiming the words of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free." (4:18).
And then giving a one-line homily: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’’
Don’t just wait till Sunday to hear the gospel proclaimed by Jerry each week. Read the entire book—Luke—start to finish. And then when you come to Mass, you’ll hear a passage that you’ve recently read and reflected on. It’ll sound familiar. But more importantly, you will have given the Holy Spirit a head start on what she wants you to hear, how she wants you to feel, and what she wants you to do.