Luke's Journey Narrative: Your “job description” of what you must do to be a “faithful & prudent” servant of Jesus Christ by Fr Russ Harbaugh
As you know, our Sunday Gospels readings come from the Gospel according to St. Luke in Ordinary Time in Year C, the liturgical year that we are in. Scripture scholars and commentators make a point of telling us that Luke’s Greek in his gospel is the best Greek in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, this is true except for the first couple chapters, the Infancy Narratives, that are written in the common Greek of the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek form of the Hebrew Bible, it is therefore, more archaic. Luke does this on purpose because it is the link in his gospel from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Scholars tell us that the Greco-Roman world of his time would have read the gospel and its Volume II companion, the Acts of the Apostles, we call it, if not for its religious content, then for its literary content. Some would have read it as romance literature for its literary quality. Compare Luke’s Gospel with Mark’s. While Mark has some literary quality, the Greek and style is more readily listened to than read. Luke has a higher literary quality. Luke uses some literary techniques to make his story more readily understood by the reader. “… after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you…” (See Lk 1:1-4) One of these literary techniques is the gathering of some of his material into what we call, The Journey Narrative.
Luke’s gospel reaches its turning point with Jesus setting out for Jerusalem, where He will be put to death. Luke devotes 10 chapters to this journey, 9:51-19:27. (Far longer than Mark where there is also the journey to Jerusalem). We hear from this section of Luke’s gospel from Week 13 to Week 31 of Ordinary Time. That is 19 weeks! Over 51% of Ordinary Time in Year C comes from the Journey Narrative. Some years ago, as this sunk in, I started recording on index cards the primary focus of each gospel reading. As much as I am a trained administrator, I can’t find those cards! So, for this instruction,
[Your “job description” of what you must do to be a “faithful & prudent” servant of Jesus Christ]:
I went back and took another look at them and here follows what I found in these readings.
Jesus comes first and foremost. Total commitment to Jesus Christ.
Disciples are meant to bring peace.
The parable of the Good Samaritan: who is my neighbor? Do good to all others even those we think of as enemies.
Mary/Martha. We need actions and contemplation in our lives. Each of us has his/her own gifts from God to bring to others.
Perseverance, especially in prayer.
Our lives are not about amassing “stuff.” Don’t be crushed by possessions. The real treasure in life is selfless and affirming love. Stewardship. We belong to God.
“Preparedness.” Integrity and trust are the qualities of the “faithful and prudent” servant. The gift of time.
Life is full of vulnerabilities and fragileness. The constant that bridges these divisions is God’s love. The Gospel demands: compassion, forgiveness and justice. Commitment to Christ often means taking a stand on certain things that may put us in opposition to others: “rejection.”
“The narrow gate.” Grace of God frees us to transform our lives and find new purpose in our broken but still very much meaningful lives. Humble yourself. Don’t be afraid of making yourself small.
Humility. Don’t have to be the center of all things.
Discipleship means integrating Christ’s teachings into our daily lives. Cost of discipleship versus cheap grace. Carry our cross daily. Prefer Christ to all things. When Jesus says, “hate father and mother” He really means letting one’s family go. “Hate” is more accurately translated as “prefer.” In Jesus’ society, the family relationship was the most important relationship. He is telling us that He must come first. Our relationship with Him is the most important relationship. Renounce possessions.
Prodigal Son Parable. God is ”prodigal and extravagant” with His forgiveness.
“Dishonest Steward’ Parable. What really matters, what really counts: the divine love that will transform us. While the Dishonest Steward used shrewdness, we use prayer. Total commitment to Jesus should be the driving force in our lives.
See God in our midst and in the poor. Behold the dignity in every human being. Show our faith in every day actions.
Need to increase our faith. Big things can come from small acts. Parable of the Mustard Seed.
Gratitude in all things. “God is good, all the time, and, all the time, God is good.”
Perseverance. Prayer. Hope. The Parable of the Persistent Widow.
Humility. Parable of Pharisee and the Publican.
Story of Zacchaeus. Don’t defraud anyone.
Certain themes keep coming back: importance of prayer, persistence, love of God and others, compassion, forgiveness.
I urge you to pay very close attention to the Gospel readings during this time. You might want to try your hand at making your own list of the important things you find in them. Then, you will have your “job description” of what you must do to be a “faithful and prudent” servant of Jesus Christ.
As we proceed through this liturgical year, let us think of the themes in our gospel readings for Weeks 13-31 as a kind of blueprint or job description for being worthy to be called a Christian. We may be overwhelmed when we put it all together. After all, in the Gospel according to Matthew, we hear Jesus say, that “His yoke is easy and His burden light.” How can that be after hearing all this? Because God always presents us with His grace and with that grace we can say to the ”mountain move.”
All things are possible with God’s grace, God’s help!