All I ask is to be like him
All thro’ life’s journey
From earth to glory
All I ask is to be like him (Caribbean Worship & Song 414)
In this Year of Faith let us desire to grow more like Jesus by reflecting on the major themes in Luke’s Gospel. Luke highlights the theme of joy: the Good News is for everybody. He is very keen on the place of prayer and the Holy Spirit in the Christian life, as well as the role of women in the community. He is at pains to highlight Jesus’ concern for all who are suffering: the poor, the sick, and the sinner. And finally, he is very strong on the social implications of Christ’s teachings. Let us look in more detail at some of the gems in Luke’s Gospel.
Everywhere in the Gospel we sense a note of joy.
We see this note of joy and praise in how Luke tells the stories of Jesus’ infancy:
the Annunciation, the Visitation and the Nativity.
Luke has Mary recite the great prayer of joy that we call The Magnificat (1:46-55).
We read of the seventy-two disciples coming back from their mission “full of rejoicing”, of the “rejoicing over one sinner who repents”, of the “merry-making and rejoicing” over the return of the Prodigal Son.
Joined to this joy, we naturally find praise of God. Among the Four Gospels, Luke has the greatest number of hymns of praise – the Magnificat of Mary, the Benedictus of Zechariah, the Gloria in Excelsis of the angels and the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon. Luke presents Jesus in prayer at all the key points of his life. Always the prayer of Jesus expresses his unique relationship with his heavenly Father.
The Holy Spirit is a major figure in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, and Simeon, prompted by the Spirit, praise God and prophesy. With the power of the Spirit Jesus begins his public ministry (4:1).
Compassion and Justice
Luke relates that on one Sabbath day, Jesus went to the synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah;
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And to the blind new sight,
To set the downtrodden free. Luke 4:18-19
Jesus was “good news” for the poor – those oppressed, dispossessed, the captives, the blind, the downtrodden – those imprisoned by sin, sickness and injustice.
Forgiveness and Mercy
The limitless mercy, patient tenderness and great forgiveness of Jesus came through in his parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son (15:4-32). Zacchaeus (19:1-10) and the sinful woman in the house of a Pharisee (7:36-50) reveal Jesus as the friend of sinners. Even to the end of his life, Jesus holds out promise to the sinner. Jesus prays for his executioners, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (23:34).
Need and Greed
Watch and be on your guard against avarice of any kind (12:15).
In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus warns against greed. Luke 16:19-31 gives the parable of the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus, who lay at the gate of the rich man, in rags, full of sores, and hungry. The rich man’s sin was what he had failed to do, that is, to see and meet the needs of Lazarus. Every Lazarus at the gate is a challenge to remember where God is… at the side of the poor.
Women and Social Outcasts
Luke shows Jesus having a special preference for social outcasts of his society. He cured lepers (18:11-19). He instructed his followers on the guests to choose when having a party: “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (14:13-14).He made a Samaritan – a despised foreigner – the ideal human being, the ideal neighbour (10:29-37).
Luke’s Gospel has a litany of women who ministered to Jesus and were ministered to by him: Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, Simon’s mother-in-law (4:38-39), widow of Nain (7:11-17) and Jairus’ daughter (8:41-56) The quality, depth and strength of our Faith must be reflected in the way we live. Our Faith must show up in our life.
To be like Jesus…
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
In all the places you can
To all the people you can
As long as ever you can
Sr Columba Byrne, CHF