Tag Archives: St. Luke

The Resurrection according to Luke

Our gospel reading today and tomorrow is from Luke’s resurrection narrative.(Luke 24,13-35), the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like Matthew, Luke begins with the women at the tomb, but he quickly directs us beyond the tomb to a road where two downcast disciples sunk in disappointment have lost hope. Jesus appears gradually to the two disciples. Slow to see his presence, they finally recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Afterwards, they remember his words on the road that made their hearts burn within them.

In Luke’s account of the Risen Jesus, the two disciples on the road who lose hope are key to understanding the journey of the church the evangelist describes in his gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles. The church is on a journey from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. For the evangelist Rome is the ends of the earth.

But it’s not a triumphant journey the two disciples make, nor is the church’s journey triumphant. It falls and fails along the way. Luke’s narrative is a wonderful corrective to a triumphalist view of the church.

It also reminds us our personal journey of faith is not a triumphal march either. We’re like the two disciples. Yet, Jesus walks with us. He never fails to help us see.

Rembrandt. Disciples on the Way to Emmaus

We’re Slow, like the Apostles


We’re slow, like the apostles, to understand the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus are not the only ones slow to understand–all of them were. Luke says that in the Acts of the Apostles, which we read in the easter season. And we are slow too.

Peter, who preaches to the crowds in Jerusalem at Pentecost, certainly was slow to understand. He speaks forcefully at Pentecost, forty days after the Passover when Jesus died and rose from the dead, but the days before he’s speechless. It took awhile for him and for the others who came up with Jesus from Galilee to learn and be enlightened about this great mystery..

Mark’s accounts of Jesus resurrection appearances, read on the  Saturday of Easter week, stresses the unbelief of his disciples. They were not easily persuaded.

It’s the same with us. Each year the Lord refreshes our faith in the resurrection, but it’s not done in a day. Like the disciples, we need time to take it in, and so we have an easter season of forty days.

The disciples also were slow to understand the mission they were to carry out, a mission that was God’s plan, not theirs, a plan that outruns human understanding. A new age had come, the age of the Holy Spirit, and they didn’t understand it. The fiery winds of Pentecost had to move them to go beyond Jerusalem and Galilee to the ends of the earth.

The Holy Spirit also moves us to a mission beyond our understanding. Luke says that in the Acts of the Apostles. “The mission is willed, initiated, impelled and guided by God through the Holy Spirit. God moves ahead of the other characters. At a human level, Luke shows how difficult it is for the church to keep up with God’s action, follow God’s initiative, understand the precedents being established.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles)

“You judge things as human beings do, not as God does,” Jesus says to Peter elsewhere in the gospel. We see things that way too.

Like the others, Peter is slow to understand God’s plan after Jesus is raised from the dead. He doesn’t see why he must go to Caesaria Maritima to baptize the gentile Cornelius and his household. (Acts 10,1-49) It’s completely unexpected. Only gradually does he embrace a mission to the gentiles and its implications. The other disciples are like him; God’s plan unfolds but they are hardly aware of it.

One thing they all learned quickly, though, as is evident in the Acts of the Apostles. Like Jesus, they would experience the mystery of his cross, and in that experience they find wisdom.

The Lost Sheep

Jordan Valley

A few years ago a woman sent me some pictures from her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The one above is a picture of some sheep in the Jordan Valley. In the background are mountains that trail off into the dark distance. In his day, Jesus would have passed this way from Galilee to Jerusalem. Probably sheep were grazing in the green pastureland then as they do now.

I think of this picture whenever I hear his parable of the lost sheep, which we heard in Luke’s gospel today at Mass.

Can you imagine searching for one sheep in those mountains? Just looking at them might cause us to say, “Well, that one’s gone,” and give up. But the Good Shepherd doesn’t say that or give up. He searches the mountains till he finds what was lost, then he puts it on his shoulders and rejoices with his friends and neighbors.

“Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.”

The lost sheep is not only each one of us; it’s also a lost world.

A Divine Guidance System (DGS) ?

Annunciation

Angels play an important role in St. Luke’s gospel and its continuation, the Acts of the Apostles, which we read during the Easter season. Angels appear to Zachary in the temple announcing the birth and name of John, but the priest rejects the angel’s message and loses his speech. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary, announcing the coming of Jesus and she welcomes his message and breaks into song as the Holy Spirit comes upon her. Angels announce the birth of Jesus to the poor shepherds and send them off to Bethlehem to see the newborn Child. Later in the gospel, an angel appears to Jesus to strengthen him as he prays in Garden of Gethsemane.

Besides angels, the Holy Spirit is important for Luke. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Jesus announces in the synagogue of Nazareth, “to bring glad tidings to the poor.” As he ascends into heaven he tells his disciples “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

Notice in Luke’s accounts, how often angels and the Spirit of the Lord tell people to go somewhere. “Go to Bethlehem,” “Go to Egypt,” “Go to Nazareth.” In one of our readings last week an angel tells Philip to get up and head south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.” Then, after Philip meets the Ethiopian official and baptizes him, “the Spirit of the Lord snatches him away” and sends him on the road to Azotus and then to Caesaria.

It sounds like a GPS system. “Go here, turn right, head for this place or that.” Actually, a GPS system is a good analogy for what Luke wants to say. He believes that there’s a divine guidance system for our world and it’s up to us to listen to the signs we’re given and follow God’s instructions. God has a plan for this world and for each of us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads us.

I had to drive out to Greensburg, PA, last week to conduct a retreat for the Sisters of Charity there. Most of the way I know, but I never drove to Greensburg so I decided to use a simple GPS system I have in my IPhone .

I never used it before, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t trust it. The GPS said to take Route 66 after you get off the Stanton exit; get off at route 30 and a quarter of mile after that you will be there. I followed it, but then I saw a sign for route 130 and I said to myself, “This thing is wrong, It must mean route 130.” I got off at 130 and I was wrong. The GPS was smarter than I was. So I had to call the convent and say, “ Sister, I’m lost, can you come and get me.”

No matter who we are, we need to pray for guidance and listen to the ways the Lord speaks to us. God is smarter than we are.

Today is Mothers’ Day. I think the smartest mothers, like the smartest fathers, the smartest anybodys, are those who know they need the guidance of God and pray for it every day. A mother I know wrote this prayer some years ago. Here she is, a mother praying for angels and the grace to hear them:

O Lord, I need your help today.
I want to care
for those you’ve sent into my life,
to help them develop the special gifts
you’ve given them.
But I also want to free them
to follow their own paths
and to bring their loving wisdom
to the world.
Help me
to embrace them without clutching,
to support them without suffocating,
to correct them without crushing.
And help me
to live joyfully and playfully, myself,
so they can see your life in me
and find their way to you.
Amen.
(Virginia Burke Phelan)

The Transfiguration of Jesus

DSC00070
Today’s Feast of the Transfiguration was celebrated as far back as the 4th century by the Syrian church. Then, it spread to other eastern churches, and finally in the 15th century came into our Roman liturgy, probably through western pilgrims to the Holy Land who visited the great mountain shrine of the Transfiguration in Galilee and brought the feast back to Europe. Some of our feasts have come to us like this– from pilgrims to the Holy Land.

All three synoptic gospels have the account of Jesus ascending the mountain with Peter, James and John after he has announced his passion and death. He’s transfigured before them. His face is changed in appearance,“dazzling like the sun,” Matthew’s gospel says. “His clothes are dazzling white;” the other gospels say, reflecting a body we can’t look at directly. It happens “while he was praying,” Luke says, who always sees prayer opening up the mysteries of God.

The mountain in the scriptures is a favorite place where God reveals himself. It’s where you can take in everything, everywhere. Later this week in our readings from Deuteronomy (4,32-40), Moses tells the children of Israel to remember that God’s voice came from the heavens and spoke to them from the mountain of Horeb and led them by a cloud to a land that was their heritage.

Now, God speaks from the Mount of Transfiguration. A cloud envelopes Jesus and his disciples. “This is my chosen Son; listen to him,” God says. “Keep this mystery in mind,” Peter says in his letter; it’s “like a lamp shining in a dark place, until the first streaks of dawn appear and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Our liturgy today tells us that Jesus “revealed his glory to his disciples to strengthen them for the scandal of the cross,” that’s the dark place God wishes to lighten. “His glory shone in a body like our own, to show that the Church, which is his body, would one day share his glory,” our liturgy says. So our bodies share this mystery with him.

Moses and Elijah are there speaking to him, Luke says, “about his passage, which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.” The passage from Egypt to the Promised Land will take place now through the mystery of his passion and resurrection.

The disciples fall silent after experiencing this mystery. They can’t explain it, even if they wanted to. So they fall back on the familiar stories of Moses and Elijah who spoke to God face to face. The mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mystery we anticipate, we cannot explain. Later, his disciples will say simply: “We have seen the Lord. He is risen, as he said.”

Passing On The Faith

Basilica of St. Ann, Jerusalem, 11th century

Devotion to St. Ann began in Jerusalem, probably at a 5th century basilica near the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus cured the paralyzed man waiting to get into its healing waters. Ruins of the basilica can be seen today in the ruins of the Bethesda pool. The present basilica of St. Ann, begun in the 12th century, stands nearby.

Would the early basilica be near the place where Joachim and Ann lived in the city, or was its site chosen for convenience? The ancient stories of the Protoevangelium associate Mary’s family with the temple and describe Joachim participating in the temple sacrifices. I wonder if we dismiss these stories too quickly as “myths.”

The Protoevangelium says that Mary was presented in the temple and dedicated to God as a child. At the least, this indicates that Mary would be well acquainted with the temple, its worship and the teachings of Judaism. If we accept this reconstruction, Mary would be far from a peasant girl from Nazareth. She would be better formed in Judaism and particularly in temple worship than we sometimes think.

Mary’s family was related to the family of John the Baptist, whose father Zachariah is a priest in the temple. (Luke 1,3-25) They live in the hill country near Jerusalem. Mary’s visit before Jesus’ birth to Elizabeth, Zachariah’s wife, connects her closely with them.

Later, as a young boy Jesus engages the teachers of the law on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (Luke 2,41-52) He amazes them with his wisdom. Could some of that  wisdom have come from a mother’s teaching?

“And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and man,” (Luke 2,52)

Mary and Joseph, Ann and Joachim certainly contributed to his growth.

Today at the novena, I’m going to talk about how Mary and Ann may have taught Jesus about the temple and what to do there. Like them, we must pass on our faith to others, particularly to the next generation.

Basilica of St. Ann, Jerusalem