Monday, October 18, 2010

Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist: The Good News of a God Whose Love Knows No Bounds nor Boxes!

A preaching instructor I once had used to say, time and again, "every homily or sermon must in some way proclaim the Good News." The Gospel of Luke usually makes such an aim exceedingly easy! It is replete with images, metaphors, and dramatic and dynamic parables that ooze good news! Take for example the opening chapter: Mary sings a canticle of praise to God who "shows the strength of his arm," "scatters the proud in their conceit," "casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly", "fills the hungry with good things", "sends the rich away empty", "comes to the help of his servant Israel", and "remembers his promises of old." This is indeed good, and even great, news to those who are both literally and figuratively hungry and thirsty! (It's not so good, however, for the "high and mighty!")

The praise of God continues in Luke with the song of the priest/prophet Zechariah just ten or so verses later. Zechariah tells of a God who "raises up a savior", "saves from enemies", "promises to show mercy", "sets free from enemies", "forgives sins", and, above all, is a God of "tender compassion." Luke lays a foundation in the first chapter that promises quite a lot! In subsequent chapters he "stands and delivers" by showing how Jesus embodies all of the above and reveals the Good News of a God whose love knows no bounds nor boxes!

Chapter 15 is probably the most dramatic depiction of the God who loves beyond limit and beyond rules. If you've never read the chapter in it's entirety, it's well worth it since these parables are unique to Luke (not repeated in any other Gospel) and cut to the chase of the manner in which God loves. The theme of the three parables that comprise chapter 15 could be phrased, "what was lost has been found." At their core, however, the parables aren't so much about what was lost but who seeks relentlessly and even frantically to find the lost.

The chapter begins with a parable about a lost sheep, proceeds to a tale about a lost coin, and finishes with the climactic rendering of the "lost" or "prodigal" son. Without going into detail about the specifics of each story, what stands out is the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go after the one who strayed (instead of simply cutting his losses), the woman who frantically searches the house at nighttime to find a lost coin (instead of simply waiting until the morning to look), and the Father who races out to embrace his wayward son at a distance (instead of making the son sheepishly come all the way home unaccompanied and beg for forgiveness). The Church celebrates the feast of St. Luke today precisely because of the way in which his Gospel "oozes Good News": the Good News of a God whose love knows no bounds and no boxes!! Pat, TOR