Sat, 24 November 2007
Laying a firm foundation for the Gospel of Luke will allow for a much greater appreciation of this incredible book, which is written in the unique literary form of the gospels: not a biography of Jesus but more of a "snapshot" narration of specific events in his life. We refer to Luke as a synoptic gospel, a term that means "of the same viewpoint," because Luke's account shares nearly three-quarters of the same material with those of Matthew and Mark. All three are seemingly derived from the same Apostolic outline of Jesus' life. Right from the outset he speaks of his desire to clarify the truth amidst various gospel accounts describing the story of Jesus. The only Gentile writer in all of the Bible, Luke writes in an elegant, well-educated Greek that is reminiscent of the best Greek of the Septuagint. He is also undoubtedly the author of the Acts of the Apostles. A humble man, one whom Paul referred to as the "beloved physician," Luke hailed from the great cultural and economic center of Antioch, a major early Christian city known as the great mother of churches (Col 4:14).
A masterful mid-first century historian, Luke's gospel is the product of his painstaking research during the many years in which he accompanied Paul in his travels. Relying on eyewitness and historical accounts from individuals who saw Christ and others who were then residing in Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor, he writes to Theophilus, "lover of God," which could refer to either a generic Christian reader or to a specific individual. Although some scholars date Luke's gospel later, the date of composition may have been earlier than 64 A.D. In either case, he writes to a Christian who has already received basic catechesis, attempting to instruct with greater surety the truth of the Christian message.
A convert himself, Luke expresses the depths of God's universal mercy, who "come[s] to seek and to save the lost" throughout the entire world and excludes no one (19:10). He stresses Christ's unique compassion for the poor, the broken-hearted, and the outcast and also focuses on Jesus' interaction with women, a rarity among Jewish literature of any time. Luke's unique infancy narrative, which contains several Canticles and the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, reflects a deep perspective on the Holy Family and the heart of Mary. And his many parables (Luke has more parables than any other gospel) project a picture of Jesus Christ which we can savor through prayerful reading.