Tag Archives: Luke’s gospel

Saturday 2nd Week

Lent 1

Luke 15

Scripture Readings
The story of the prodigal son, one of the longest in the gospel, is also one of the most important. It’s not just about a boy who goes astray, of course, it’s about the human race gone wrong.

“Give me what’s mine,” the son says boldly to his father, and he takes off for a faraway country, a permissive paradise that promises power and pleasure, in fact, it promises him everything.

But they’re empty promises, and soon the boy who had so much has nothing and ends up in a pigsty feeding pigs, who eat better than he does.

Then, he takes his first step back. He “comes to himself,” our story says; he realizes what he has done. “I have sinned.”

How straightforward his reaction! Not blaming anybody else for the mess he is in: not his father, or the prostitutes he spent so much of his money on, or society that took him in. No, it’s his own fault.

He doesn’t wallow in his sin and what it’s brought him, either. He looks to the place where he belongs, to his father’s house. It wont be an easy road, but he takes it. He starts back home.

His story is our story too.

How easily we leave your side,
Lord God,
for a place far away.
Send light into our darkness,
and open our eyes to our sins.

Unless you give us new hearts and strong spirits,
we cannot make the journey home,
to your welcoming arms and the music and the dancing.

Father of mercies and giver of all gifts,
guide us home
and lead us back to you.

The Prayer of Jesus in the Garden

Mount Olives 3


Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, the gospels say. Early in Matthew’ gospel Jesus brings his disciples up onto a mountain–a traditional place to draw close to God– and taught them how to pray. High places, mountains are holy places in the Bible. 

Jesus taught the prayer we call the “Our Father” or the “Lord’s Prayer” on a mountain. (Matthew 6, 9-13) The prayer has deep roots in the Jewish prayer tradition. Its concern is that God’s kingdom come.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus teaches prayer to his disciples “in a certain place”, on the plain, in the course of his ministry. (Luke 11, 2-4) They see him praying regularly and ask him to teach them, as John the Baptist taught his disciples.  In answer, he offers a shorter, probably more primitive version of the prayer found in Matthew. Again, its concern is that God’s kingdom come:

“When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11,2-4)

Mark, Matthew, Luke present Jesus praying in the garden before his Passion, but this time the disciples, instead of asking for his instruction, are sleeping. 

They’re sleeping because the flesh is weak, Mark says.

They’re sleeping because they can’t keep their eyes open, Matthew says.

They’re sleeping because of grief, Luke says.

Stay awake and pray, Jesus tells them, because it’s a time of testing.

They face the weakness of the flesh, and Jesus faces it as well. He faces death by crucifixion, a frightening trial, but he doesn’t wave it away in stoic resignation or depend on his own power. “Not my will, but your will be done,” he prays. He accepts the consequences of his mission, the limits of human power, the vulnerability of human nature, the “form of a slave.” He depends on God and the promises his kingdom will come.

From Jesus in the garden we learn how to pray when trials come. He kneels on the ground, Luke says, and humbly looks beyond himself to his Father, “Abba”, who hears him.

He falls to the ground, Mark says, trusting in his Father’s strength and not his own. His prayer is troubled and distressed; for an hour’s time he pleads for help. . 

“He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke says. Then, an angel come to strengthen him as a result of his prayer. The cup of suffering isn’t taken away; he will drink from it, but he will not be destroyed by it. God will raise him up.

We ask him to teach us pray as he did. We ask him to pray with us in our trials. God’s kingdom will come.

The Magnificat and the Benedictus

St. Luke offers a beautifully crafted narrative of the infancy of Jesus Christ in the first two chapters of his gospel. Mary concludes her visit to Elizabeth with a song of praise to God, who is “mighty and has done great things to me.” – her Magnificat.

After John the Baptist’s birth, his father Zechariah sings his praise to God. “Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel. He has come to his people and set them free.”–his Benedictus.

The Benedictus is the church’s daily morning prayer, ending the silence and darkness of night and welcoming a blessed day.  “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet in the way of peace.”

No matter what the day, the Dawn which is Jesus Christ brings God’s blessings to the world and guidance for our steps. Each morning we pray Zechariah’s song, the man who came slowly to belief.

Each evening we pray Mary’s “Magnificat” at evening prayer in thanksgiving for the blessings of the day. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.God has come to the help of his servant Israel, remembering his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” The promises of God remain and we rejoice in them with Mary and wait for their fulfillment to come.

Commentators on Luke’s gospel say that Luke probably uses Jewish Christian prayers, applying them to Zechariah and Mary. The New American Bible says: “ Because there is no specific connection of the canticle to the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat (with the possible exception of v 48) may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.”

Ancient prayers, the Magnificat and the Benedictus are attributed appropriately to Mary and Zechariah. They’re our prayers too. Daily prayers.

Gracious God,

Let me not doubt your promises, your tender mercies, but let me rejoice in them as Mary and Zechariah did, and look for their fulfillment, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

December 21: The Visitation

Visitation

We’re fortunate these last days of Advent to read St. Luke’s entire Infancy Narrative richly describing the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus.

Today  Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth after the angel’s great announcement. She travels to the hill country, to a town of Judah “in haste,” Luke says. She goes “in haste” not in panic or fear.  She visits Elizabeth to share the mysterious gift of God, hastening for joy.  The Visitation is one of the joyful mysteries of the rosary.

In the first reading for Mass today Mary speaks to the Child in her womb in words from the Song of Songs:

“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,

in the secret recesses of the cliff,

Let me see you,

let me hear your voice,

For your voice is sweet,

and you are lovely.”

As they come together to share what they have been given, Mary and Elizabeth are believers, rejoicing.  “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled,” Elizabeth says to Mary.

The two women tell us about faith in their simple meeting. Faith is something to rejoice in. It’s meant to be shared and shared eagerly. The two women are pregnant and don’t yet see the life they carry within them. Like faith, the life within them is hidden from their eyes. And so it is with us.

Their meeting is a communion of saints. They share gifts of God not yet seen. 

“The women speak of the grace they received,” St. Ambrose says, “ while the children are active in secret, unfolding the mystery of love…”  As the women speak to each other, another meeting goes on within them as the infants in their wombs meet.

Is that true with us too? God works within us, beyond our understanding, as we live by faith.   “Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith,” St. Ambrose says, “You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God… Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord.”

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

He Came to Nazareth

The gospel readings this week are not just from one gospel, as they usually are. The readings this week after the Epiphany to the Baptism of the Lord ( January 7-12) are from the four gospels and each tells us that Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, manifested himself to all. In Psalm 2 (Monday) God says “I will give you all the nations as an inheritance.” Jesus gives himself to all.

This week each gospel points to the universal mission of Jesus already evident as he ministers to the people of his own time and place. Matthew’s gospel on Monday says he began his ministry in the “Galilee of the Gentiles.” “Great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.” Gentiles from the Decapolis and beyond the Jordan as well as Jews were already approaching him. Matthew 4,12-17, 24-25)

In the readings from Mark’s Gospel for Tuesday and Wednesday, Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fish on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee and then sets out on the sea for the other side, the pagan side, to bring the blessings of these signs to them also. (Mark 6)

On Thursday and Friday, there are excerpts from Luke’s Gospel. On Friday Luke recounts the cure of the leper. The leper’s cure promises that Jesus will reach out to all the abandoned throughout the world.

On Saturday, in the reading from John, John the Baptist recognizes that Jesus “is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” Jesus will bring the waters of life to all.

Luke’s reading for Thursday, though, is somewhat puzzling. Jesus goes to Nazareth where he was raised and is rejected, but notice Luke’s reading for that day ends before the account of his rejection: “And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” (Luke 4, 14-22)

That’s the way we would have liked Nazareth to respond to the presence of Jesus when he first came there, but the town rejected him and Jesus never returned, the gospels say.

Do our readings this week offer the promise that Jesus, as the Risen Christ entrusted with the mission to save all, always returns to the hard places and most resistant people?

That means we’re not to give up on the Nazareths of this world that seem too far gone, too faithless, to ever hear the gospel. “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you,” our psalm says.

December 24: The Dawn from On High

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The birth of John the Baptist. Luke’s gospel says, is closed connected to the birth of Jesus. today. We celebrate the two births as we draw near to Christmas.  Struck dumb by doubt,  John’s father Zechariah speaks again as he agrees to the child’s name. “John is his name.”

John Baptist birth

Artists often portray the birth of John in a room with midwives attending Elizabeth at his birth, but Luke’s gospel portrays Zechariah his father singing a song at his birth.. “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us. For you, my child,  shall go before the Lord to prepare his way, by the forgiveness of sins”  He sees the birth of John in a larger perspective.

“The dawn from on high shall break upon us.” A new day can dawn in a spectacular way at times. I saw daybreak over New York City a few years ago from our house in Union City. Shortly before, the city was dark, then the day broke to bathe it in gold.  What promise daybreak holds!

These days, darkened by political unrest worldwide, poverty,  terrorism, racial problems and homelessness, we need grace from on high. Christmas comes at a good time.

Readings here.

O King of all nations and keystone of the church,  come and save us whom you formed from the dust.

Unprepared

by Orlando Hernandez

This Wednesday’s Gospel is from the section of Luke’s Chapter 14 that tells about what will be demanded of a follower of Jesus. I wonder how many people remained in the “Great crowds” after hearing what Jesus expected of them!

“ and He turned and addressed them, ‘If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’” (Lk 14:25-27)

Jesus goes on to tell them of the builder, and the king marching into battle who do not have what it takes to succeed. What does it take to make it as a disciple of Christ? How does a disciple of Christ keep his or her “taste” like good salt? (Lk 14: 34-35) The Lord says in todays Gospel: “everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14: 33)

The Lord presents these challenges all over the Gospel of Luke. For example: in chapter 9: 57-62, The Conditions of Discipleship; in chapter 8: 11-15, The Parable of the Sower; in chapter 6: 20-26, the Sermon on the Plain; and in chapter 18: 18-30, the story of the rich official who wants to follow Him. After the rich official leaves disappointed, the disciples ask Jesus: “Then who can be saved?”

Over the last few weeks I have been talking with leaders of prayer groups, evangelization brotherhoods, Knights of Columbus, Passionist Associate Directors. At some point or another they would complain sadly about how the majority of the members are not coming to the meetings. Their excuses are similar to those cited by the Gospel: “I had to work late at the business.”, “My husband wants me home.”, “I have to take the kids to soccer.”, “I’m so tired, the boss is giving me a hard time.”, and so on….. The initial enthusiasm , the taste of salt, seems to be fading, the light on the lamp stand getting dimmer. I often find myself falling into this darkening. Please Lord, don’t let me go!

How exclusive, really, is this fellowship with the Lord? What are the requirements after all? To be invited to the Feast of the Lord it seems to help to be part of “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” (Lk 14:15-24) In the next chapter (Lk 15) we see that perhaps if you realize that you are lost in the night like that little sheep, then the Shepherd will come for you with great joy and love. Or, if you see your total poverty and foolishness, and feel true repentance, the Father will come running down the road to embrace you!

This is so much beyond my understanding. When I knew that I could not live without the Beautiful One who had revealed Himself to me, I jumped head long into His arms, without realizing what I was getting into. Was I like the unprepared builder, the understaffed king, the seed in rocky, or thorny ground? I imagine so. I have given up a lot for Him, but I fail Him so many times. I cling to so many pleasures and possessions: “What would I do without my retirement pension, or my health? I adore my grandchildren, my wife.”

Perhaps my mistake lies in that use of the word “my”. None of these things are really mine. As Christians, most of us eventually will understand that all these wonderful things are really not ours, but His, blessed be His most merciful heart! Actually, most of the people in our planet are lacking them. He tells everyone in today’s Gospel to “carry his own cross and come after me”. Come where? Where else but Calvary itself, where He lost everything, even His life. We are all headed there. Through aging, loss, or misfortune, sooner or later we will understand the total poverty of our situation. The only treasure we have is Him, not because we deserve this treasure, but because He loves us so much.

Orlando Hernandez

An Unpeaceable Kingdom

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Luke 12,49-53

Most of us don’t want to live in the house our Lord describes in today’s gospel, where fathers fight with their sons, sons with their fathers; where mothers fight with their daughters, daughters with their mothers.”

Not a nice house to live in.

Same way with a world on fire. A little fire is all right, but a world on fire? Too much.

We’d rather live in a world Isaiah describes: a holy mountain where the lion and the lamb lie down together and a child can put his hand into a snake hole and not get bit. A peaceable kingdom.

But maybe the situation Jesus describes is a form of the cross he endured. Maybe it’s the cross he asks us to endure today: a world on fire with strife, confusion and misunderstanding. Can the cross take the form of confusion and misunderstanding? It’s hard to live in a world where things are not clear and hard to understand.

Maybe that’s the cross we have to carry today.