Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Advent Evening Prayer - Wednesday of Gaudete (The Third Sunday in Advent)
Luke 1:1-4, 26-38; Hebrews 1:1-14; Isaiah 7:10-16
Significant portions of this homily are taken directly or indirectly from “The Word of the Lord Grows” by Martin Franzman, CPH.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. Luke leaves no question as to the purpose of His Gospel. He states unequivocally that it is to be an “orderly account” of the events of Jesus’ life and ministry “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” The Evangelist identifies an unknown patron by the name of Theophilus as the audience for his Gospel, a name which means “friend of God” or “lover of God” and, thereby, may be intended to represent anyone who loves God and His Word and desires to know more.
Luke’s Gospel is a didactic, or teaching, Gospel most certainly aimed at Gentile believers. The Evangelist often goes out of his way to explain Jewish traditions, customs, and culture to an audience who seemingly had little familiarity with them. Additionally, Luke intentionally, it seems, includes both a symbolic man and a symbolic woman, and also a symbolic Jew and a symbolic Gentile, at key moments in Jesus’ life and ministry so as to demonstrate that Jesus is the savior of both men and women, Jews and Gentiles, indeed, of the whole world. Unique to Luke is that the Evangelist also wrote a second volume to account for the deeds and ministry of Jesus’ Apostles following His ascension; we call that book The Acts of the Apostles, or, the Book of Acts.
Luke’s Gospel is the most thoroughly Greek of the Synoptics. With it’s preface, formal structure, conformity to Greek literary custom, reference to the works of other writers, it’s claim to painstaking and systematic research as the basis of an ordered and articulated account, and its companion volume The Acts of the Apostles, Luke’s Gospel stands sturdy as a work of Greek literature. The extensive proportions of the two-book work, its long perspective and broad scope, are in keeping with its announced literary intentions: to provide an “orderly account” of the events of both Jesus’ life and ministry and the ministry of the Apostles and the birth of the Church thereafter.
The Christ of the third Gospel is the Seeker of the lost, the Savior of the lowly. His birth is announced to the shepherds, whom good Jews suspected and despised, and He is branded by the righteous in Israel as one who “receives sinners and eats with them”. Of a piece with this picture of Jesus as the compassionate and condescending Savior is the special attention paid to women in this Gospel, for woman was not highly regarded in Judaism or in the ancient world generally. The infancy story is Mary’s story, not Joseph’s as in Matthew; and Luke dwells more than the other evangelists on Jesus’ relationship to women: Mary and Martha, the widow of Nain, the sinful woman, the women on the via dolorosa – these are peculiar to Luke’s account. And two parables dealing with women are peculiar to Luke also: the parable of the Lost Coin and that that of the Persistent Widow.
The third Gospel also emphasizes the universality of Jesus’ grace and Saviorhood. Jesus is the savior of all people, regardless of race, religion, or gender. Luke demonstrates this in his genealogy of Jesus, through Mary’s line, which includes both Jews and Gentiles and notorious sinners and goes back, not only to Abraham, but all the way to Adam. No other Gospel so shows Jesus’ special interest in Samaritans and even Roman soldiers and Centurions.
Perhaps, most of all, in the Magnificat St. Luke emphasizes the radical reversal that Jesus and His kingly reign bring. In the Magnificat, Mary sings of this great reversal saying: “He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.” St. Luke, amongst all the Evangelists, offers us an image of our Lord in stark contrasts: Though He is God and the very Word of creation, He is born under humble and lowly circumstances as a helpless child. Though He is the true King of heaven and earth, He is seen as the very opposite of kingly power and glory in the eyes of the world. Though He is the Messiah and Savior of all mankind, He will accomplish mankind’s salvation by means of His own suffering and death.
Thus, the iconic symbol for St. Luke’s Gospel is a winged bull. For, the bull is a sacrificial animal and a beast of burden, and St. Luke portrays Jesus as the bearer of mankind’s sin and the atoning sacrifice for man’s sin. It is St. Luke who includes the Words of Jesus: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.