Joy and Gladness (Jan. 17, 2016)

This coming weekend, we begin reading the Gospel of Luke at weekend Masses. I wonder if Pope Francis had this in mind when he proclaimed this Year of Mercy. From beginning to end, Luke’s Gospel has one major theme closely related to mercy: joy.

He begins with Gabriel’s message to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, telling him: “You will have joy and gladness” at the birth of his son. Gabriel comes to Mary: “Rejoice, highly favored daughter, the Lord is with you.” He is the only evangelist who gives the details of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem and the message of the angels to the shepherds: “Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy.” When the disciples return from their first missionary journey, Luke tells us that their hearts were overflowing with great joy. After Our Lord’s ascension into heaven, again it is Luke who tells us that “the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”

Why this joy? Simple: Luke shows us Jesus as the human expression of the Divine Compassion. It begins with this weekend’s Gospel: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” Jesus’ most characteristic gesture is wide-armed welcome: “Come to me, all you who labor and find life a heavy burden…you will find rest for your souls.” Luke gives us the parable of the prodigal son and the story of the Good Shepherd. Only in this gospel do we hear the cry of the thief crucified beside Jesus: “Lord, remember me.” And Jesus replies: “This very day you will be with me in paradise.” Only Luke records Jesus’ prayer for his murderers: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” The Jesus we find in that Gospel is noted for his gentleness, his patience, his ready forgiveness, his understanding of human weakness, and his sympathy for the hurting and the lonely.

Yet another special feature of this gospel is the prominent role women play.. Throughout his gospel, Luke balances every male scene with a female one, and more often than not, it is the women who show the greater faith and love. Luke’s Gospel is the richest source of Marian devotion. With the exception of Matthew’s account of the Magi and the flight into Egypt, and John’s mention of Mary at the wedding in Cana and at the foot of the Cross, everything we know about the Mother of Jesus, we find in this gospel.

In short, we are in for a real treat!! I hope this Gospel sinks into your beingit’s talking about you!

Be God’s smile for someone today!

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