The Catholic Liturgy for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jan. 27, 2019. Gospel – Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21. Theme: Dear Theophilus…
As we leave Christmastime behind and venture on in our Sunday liturgies into the adult life and mission of Jesus, we are going to be reading mostly from the Gospel According to St. Luke throughout 2019. And so, I think it’s important for us first of all to understand what we mean by the word “gospel”?
The primary meaning of “Gospel” is good news, and to put it most simply: the good news is that God has done away with both the penalty of sin and the finality of death by offering those who wish it, a way to spiritual freedom and eternal life through Jesus of Nazareth, God-come-in-the-flesh, our Lord and Savior. Therefore, it became vital for those who had witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to pass on the reality of these events to others. And so, we arrive at the second meaning of the word “gospel”: a record of what Jesus said and did when He lived on earth as witnessed by those who knew Him.
Luke’s approach to the gospel is very different from the others. He was not Jewish but was a Gentile, born in Syria. He was a well-educated physician, not a fisherman or a laborer or tax collector. And as we see in today’s reading, Luke had a wealthy benefactor named Theophilus, sponsoring his gospel project. This sponsor wanted assurance about the reliability of the facts before committing himself to Christ and Christianity.
At some point in our lives I think that all of us are like Luke’s sponsor, Theophilus. That is, we are attracted to the person and message of Jesus Christ, we see its goodness and beauty, but we also see that it will ask quite a bit of us. It will demand a real commitment. It will launch us off to a lifetime of change and growth in our relationship with God as we strive to incorporate, to give flesh, to the Gospel in our lives. It will also bring us persecution in various forms. And so, we want, we need, the assurance that the Faith we have received is trustworthy and true.
This is why it is vitally important for us to know that the Gospels honestly hand on to us what Jesus really said and did when He lived on earth. You see, there are those who think that the Gospels are simply biased stories of faith or fabricated religious fables. But the testimony and experiences recorded by Luke assures us that this isn’t so. When we read Luke’s gospel, we are delving into the work of an investigative reporter who is committed to finding out the facts. He spent a great deal of time and energy researching everything that he had heard about Jesus of Nazareth. He interviewed the eye witnesses and collected their stories.
And the greatest thing they witnessed was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. They saw Jesus tortured, crucified and buried. Then they spent 40 days with the Risen Lord, eating, talking and learning from Him. This was the ultimate proof of Who Jesus was and of the truth of his teachings. How trustworthy was this eyewitness testimony of the apostles? Well, they sealed it with their suffering…their blood…their lives. They all endured cruel torture - and most of them horrible deaths as martyrs – rather than deny what they seen and heard and experienced. Here are just two examples, but each apostle has an equally noble and courageous story to tell…
· St. Andrew, Peter’s brother, was tied to a cross instead of nailed so that he would not die quickly and this was intentionally done so that he could have time to change his mind and recant. But he didn’t.
· St. Bartholomew was skinned alive over a period of days and left exposed to the elements. His torturers would periodically ask him to admit he was lying about Jesus. But he gave testimony to the truth to the end.
It’s very important for us to we realize that Luke’s intention was to convey historical fact…not myth or legend. We can be confident that we have received the full truth concerning Jesus of Nazareth, God-come-in-the-flesh, our Lord and Savior. So, I think that question that remains is this: what are we going to do about it? We have heard the good news and have been offered the way to spiritual freedom, the path to eternal life. Are we going to accept the offer and take that path? Are we going to commit ourselves, our lives, to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Are we going to embrace his gospel and give it meaning, give it flesh in our lives? Luke can only bring us to know the truth, from that point on, the rest is up to each one of us.