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Dec 10, 2015

For Spiritual Health This Year, Take More Vitamin (Cycle) C

Mark Hart

Recently my fourth grade daughter has been reading the Gospels before bed each night. Even more amazing than the fact this action was neither provoked nor forced on her by yours truly has been the quality of her observations and the depth of the questions her sacred reading has elicited on the mornings that follow.

luke gospel

A couple days back she had questions about St. Luke and—more to the point—how he could be “trusted” as a source if he wasn’t one of the original twelve apostles. I affirmed her observation and tried to quell her concerns by explaining that St. Luke was a convert to the faith and a close traveling companion of St. Paul.

“So, St. Luke didn’t really know Jesus?” my daughter insightfully asked. Little did I know that on this particular morning I would introduce my now ten-year-old to the glory of Sacred Tradition.

Scripture and Living Tradition

No, St. Luke was not an eyewitness to Christ’s works (Lk 1:2). He was the product of (and an eyewitness to) the living tradition (1 Tm 3:15, 2 Thess 2:15) of Christ’s Church, fueled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. St. Luke’s own conversion was due to the early Church’s apostolic authority and charge to carry the gospel out to the ends of the earth (Mt 28:20). St. Luke, himself, obviously benefited from this great charge – even writing about its earth-changing effects in his own Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:8, 17:6). And while St. Luke didn’t “walk” with Jesus, daily, during the Lord’s public ministry, he most certainly does know him.

Consider what a special gift that St. Luke is to the Church. Without the Holy Spirit breathing (inspiration) through Luke’s pen, we would be without the “Hail Mary” or the joyful mysteries of the Rosary, for you cannot have them without Luke’s accounts of the Annunciation or Visitation (and so on) in Luke 1-2. We would, likewise, be without some of the most famous parables in history – without St. Luke we would know not of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan, to name but two. Consider the invitation to the shepherds at Christ’s birth or the angelic “Gloria” we proclaim at every Mass – again, made known to us through St. Luke. How about Jesus’ boyhood misadventures, including when he went missing for three days? Yep, that’s St. Luke, too.

A Good Dose of Vitamin (Cycle) C

Why do I mention all of this? Well, within the busy-ness of our new Church year and Advent season, some of us may have forgotten that we’ve switched our Cycle of Readings. Until late November of 2016, the Church universal will be reading from Cycle C on over forty Sundays in this new liturgical year! It will be St. Luke who takes us by the hand, leading us deeper into Christ’s Sacred Heart at every Liturgy of the Word. Lest we forget, “the Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures” (CCC 125). The more we are aware of the heartbeat, the more in tune we’ll be with the greater Body of Christ. Consider St. Luke your cardiologist for the year to come, and his prescription for good health includes a healthy dose of Vitamin (Cycle) C.

With Advent in full swing and this new liturgical year now upon us, I’d like to make a humble suggestion to everyone reading this blog, whether a parish leader, catechist, parent or everyday evangelist. Let the Word of God “dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16) this new year.  In the year to come, take advantage of the incredible resources available to go deeper into the Gospel; resources like those available from Ascension Press, the new weekly reflection of the readings with my good friend Jeff Cavins, and the new resource Ascend I was humbled and excited to pen for Life Teen, which offers an overview of each Sunday’s readings for Cycle C.

Things you can do to experience Luke’s Gospel more fully this year

  • Read Luke’s Gospel each week with your family prior to your Sunday Mass experience. Use the Gospel as the foundation for prayer that week or as a discussion during your family meal(s) or prayer time.
  • Devote twenty minutes one day a week summing up Luke’s Gospel for that week in your prayer journal, a lunchtime conversation or in a meaningful email or phone call to a friend in need.
  • Post a reflection about the week’s Gospel on your Facebook page or other social media outlet, to continually point everyone in your community back to the Sacred Scriptures and the Church’s cycle of readings for holy Mass.
  • Host a special prayer night with friends and family this Advent in which you introduce them to St. Luke and the background of his Gospel, to help them all better prepare to enter into the Liturgy of the Word during this cycle and make a commitment to read his words, weekly, prior to Mass.

To get started, here are just a few things it would benefit every soul to know about St. Luke:

  • St. Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles (the sequel) to his Gospel.
  • St. Luke is the only New Testament writer who is a Gentile (Col 4:14).
  • St. Luke was known as a “physician” (2 Tim 4:11)– educated not only as a doctor of sorts but also a cleric and quite talented writer. (Note the emphasis this physician/gospel writer places on healings within Jesus’ public ministry years.)
  • St. Luke translates all Hebrew and Aramaic terms into Greek for his mainly Gentile (mostly Greek-speaking) audience.
  • St. Luke champions the rights and dignity of the lowly and oppressed. St. Luke, in particular, places women in high regard although they held a relatively low social status in the ancient Mediterranean world.
  • St. Luke emphasizes the theme of salvation offered only through Christ. In doing so, the Holy Spirit paints an incredible portrait through Luke’s pen – one that emphasizes compassion, mercy, healing, prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit and the need to glorify God (not self). St. Luke shows us Christ as healer, liberator and Savior.

And if you really want to be a geek…note the influence St. Paul’s mentorship and discipleship must have had on St. Luke by reading his Gospel passages that so closely mirror writings contained within St. Paul’s epistles. Compare the following passages:

Luke 4:22 with Colossians 4:6
Luke 4:32 with 1 Corinthians 2:4
Luke 6:36 with 2 Corinthians 1:3
Luke 6:39 with Romans 2:19
Luke 9:56 with 2 Corinthians 10:8
Luke 10:8 with 1 Corinthians 10:27
Luke 11:41 with Titus 1:15
Luke 18:1 with 2 Thessalonians 1:11
Luke 21:36 with Ephesians 6:18
Luke 22:19, 20 with 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Luke 24:46 with Acts 17:3
Luke 24:34 with 1 Corinthians 15:5

Happy reading, my brothers and sisters in Christ!

St. Luke, pray for us!

Question to ponder or share

What is your favorite story or passage from St. Luke’s Gospel and why?!?

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