Tag Archives: Luke’s gospel

The Prayer of Jesus in the Garden

Mount Olives 3


“Then going out Jesus went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not undergo the test.”

The Passionists remember The Prayer of Our Lord in the Garden in their liturgical calendar on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time for prayer. At this time, St. Paul of the Cross and other Passionist missionaries prepared for their ministry in the lenten season. Leaving  their “retreats” they went out to awaken “those who sit in darkness…through the trumpet of God’s word.”

That can’t be done without prayer.

On the Mount of Olives Jesus prayed in the Garden before his arrest and crucifixion, while his disciples slept a short distance away. The executioners had not yet come, no scourging, no thorns, no nails had touched him, but here in the dark, Jesus faced death..

He saw before him the awful death by crucifixion, which a criminal faced. The Romans used that kind of death to frighten and keep order. They crucified their victims openly outside the city gate, a place chosen for all to see.

Jesus faced death in other forms too. There was the question the prophets faced: “Have I toiled in vain?” The sleeping disciples nearby, the towns that forgot his healing and teaching, the powerful enemies who rejected him. “Have I toiled in vain? Have I failed, have I accomplished anything ?”

Jesus does not pray in many words. He prays to God who cares for him–“Father, let this cup pass from me, but not my will but yours be done.” He gives himself into God’’s hands.

His fears are real, so real that “his sweat becomes like blood falling to the ground.” St. Vincent Strambi says Jesus’ bloody sweat is “the voice of his heart, proclaiming his great love and sorrow.”

“An angel came to strengthen him.” God hears and cares for and strengthens those who pray. “Pray, persevere in prayer.”

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.

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.

The meeting of these two women is a communion of saints. They share gifts of God, there but yet to be 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, while 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.

 

My Soul Proclaims God’s Greatness

Visitation

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 sung or said in the church’s morning prayer each day as the silence of night ends and the day is blessed.  “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.”

Every 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 with Mary we rejoice in them now 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, for example, 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 appropriately are attributed to Mary and Zechariah. They’re our prayers too.

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.