By Fathers Glen Lewandowski, OSC, and Jerry Schik, OSC
Special to Catholic News Service
Much of the excitement around a birthday or Christmas celebration comes from the surprise gifts that we receive. If you like surprises you will find a treasure chest in the Gospel of Luke. He continues a tradition which we find in several books of the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, in Deuteronomy 7:7 we read that God created quite a stir by selecting “the smallest of all nations” to be his chosen people. Luke’s Gospel contains a superabundance of passages which remind us that God’s ways are not our ways and God is frequently catching people by surprise.
Here is a short list of some of the surprises that are found in the third Gospel:
— Elizabeth is elderly but she conceives and bears a son and he becomes the forerunner of the Messiah.
— Mary is a virgin and she conceives and bears a son and he is the Messiah.
— God’s messengers (the angels) bring the Good News of the Messiah’s birth to the lowly shepherds and not to the leaders of the nation.
— God is throwing down the rulers from their thrones and lifting up the lowly.
A church window depicts the Transfiguration of Christ, in which Moses and Elijah are seen with Jesus in a glorified state before the apostles Peter, James and John. (CNS/Crosiers)
— God rejects the prayer of the Pharisee, the professional leader of prayer, and accepts the prayer of the sinner, the humble tax collector.
— The Samaritans are despised by the Jewish leaders but they come across as heroes in the parable of the Good Samaritan and in the cure of the 10 lepers.
Luke has a plethora of surprise stories in his Gospel. It is readily evident that he wants to emphasize how God’s action in our world is not in line with what people expect. I have given you only a short list of his surprise stories. Your mission, should you accept, is to pore over the pages of his Gospel and find the rest.
Synod note: The liturgical aid for the opening liturgy of the synod at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls contained five full-page illustrations from the St. John’s Bible. The image of the Transfiguration captures something of the surprise of God for the three most intimate disciples of Jesus.
The artist paints in delicate black letter at the bottom of the page these words: “This is my Son, the Beloved.” And above, between Elijah and Moses, we see a white-faced Jesus-figure — like a photo negative reversing black and white — draped and spangled in rays of gold, dappled with shimmering white speckles of glitter, dazzling with hazy boundaries that envelop and shade off into heaven above, earth below, and every space of light around him. Color without line. The transfiguration light surprises and dazzles because it can’t really be seen with the naked eye. It glows golden. It is the light by which we see.
Far down in the right-hand corner, concealed and softly revealed in faint silver letters — as if it were a reverent shushed whisper — the artist writes: “Listen to him.”
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