Last week, we heard in the Gospel of Luke how Jesus travelled back home to Nazareth – where he went into the synagogue – when he opened the holy scroll of Scripture and read from the prophet Isaiah:
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tiding to the poor. To proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
St. Luke’s Gospel is known as the “Gospel of Mercy”. Now while each of the other Gospels: Matthew, Mark and John – do show the mercy of God at work through Jesus – St. Luke emphasizes this aspect of Jesus’ ministry in a profound fashion.
It was thought that Luke was a doctor, a physician – so Luke was accustomed to the sufferings of humanity – and so he draws from his own experiences, highlighting the Lord as a kind of “divine physician” and stressed Jesus’ tenderness, concern, and kindness.
This mercy of Jesus culminates in Luke’s Gospel as Jesus hangs on the cross and says of his executors: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And to one of the thieves hanging with him: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Both unique sayings to Luke’s Gospel – because for St. Luke – no one is outside of the possibility of salvation offered by Jesus!
How one understands the role of Jesus as the Christ shapes one’s understanding of discipleship. Jesus is the model to be imitated. Jesus is empowered by the Spirit, he is compassionate toward the poor and the oppressed, he heals and forgives, he prays, and he dies a model martyr’s death.
And as disciples — we are called with an unconditional, absolute, person-centered call: “Follow me.”
And there are two responses we can have – both found in today’s Gospel reading:
Either we “speak highly of Jesus and are amazed at the gracious words that come from his mouth” and we are moved to action to build the kingdom of God in our midst.
OR we are filled with fury and want to drive Jesus out of town – or at least – out of our lives – and choose not to imitate the divine physician in our words and actions.
There is a story we will hear in Luke’s Gospel – that we hear ONLY in Luke’s Gospel – which I think is one of the pivotal stories which puts all of this into perspective. . .
Now we don’t hear this story until the middle of the summer – July 14th — during our long stretch of Ordinary Time – and yet we are all so familiar with it — The story of the Good Samaritan.
Let’s save ourselves some time — unless we are willing to commit to being the one, the Samaritan – who stops and helps his brother in need — instead of being like the priest and the Levite – who pass him by
–unless we are going to commit ourselves to building the kingdom by seeking out the lost and brokenhearted, those seeking to be healed or hungering for forgiveness —then why sit here week after week – listening to the Gospel read to us???
Accept – in doing that – maybe our hearts will eventually be softened to accept that unconditional, absolute, and person-centered call: COME FOLLOW ME!