Tag Archives: parable

Luke’s Top Ten

17 Oct

LukeIn anticipation of the feast of St. Luke tomorrow, I thought I would offer a top ten list of favorite passages from St. Luke’s Gospel, but with a twist: All selected passages must be substantially unique to St. Luke’s Gospel. In other words, the mere fact that St. Luke includes an interesting detail, such as the sweating of blood during Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden, isn’t good enough. The following list, then, contains favorite Gospel passages that likely would have been lost if they were not recorded by St. Luke the Evangelist.

The list is in order of appearance in St. Luke’s Gospel:

(1) Luke 1:26-38 Annunciation

The announcement that the Son of God is coming into the world, and Mary’s breathtaking response. It doesn’t get any better than that!

(2) Luke 1:39-56 Visitation

Another “Joyful Mystery”; I’m particularly fond of Mary’s hymn of praise, known as the “Magnificat.” There’s also a fascinating connection with the Old Testament, as Mary is revealed as the New Ark of the Covenant.

(3) Luke 2:1-20 Nativity

One might protest that St. Matthew includes some mention of Jesus’ birth and infancy, but the details provided here are mostly unique to Luke’s Gospel—everything from their being no room at the inn and being laid in a manger to the adoration of the shepherds and the glorious praise of the angels.

(4) Luke 5:1-11 Call of Simon the Fisherman

I love the invitation to Simon Peter to “put out into the deep” and Simon’s subsequent response to the miraculous catch of fish: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Despite his weakness and failings, he would become a “fisher of men.”

(5) Luke 10:29-37 Parable of the Good Samaritan

A good reminder to make “real” our commitment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

(6) Luke 10:38-42 Martha and Mary

This passage is really short, but the Church is so much richer for knowing that, despite the wonderful hospitality offered by St. Martha, Mary chose the greater part.

(7) Luke 15:11-32 Parable of the Prodigal Son

This is arguably the most famous—and most profound–of all of Jesus’ parables. I love the image it gives of God the Father, and what it teaches me as a human father.

(8) Luke 18:9-14 Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

I love this parable, as humility before God is the key to authentic prayer.

(9) Luke 23:39-43 Good Thief “Steals” Heaven

While other Gospels mention that Jesus was crucified between two thieves, only St. Luke gives us the final exchange between the two thieves. Who can forget Jesus’ words to the good thief: “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

(10) Luke 24:13-35 Road to Emmaus

This is perhaps my favorite post-Resurrection story concerning Jesus, in which the two disciples’ hearts “burned” as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, and then they definitively recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. This episode is probably the story alluded to in Mark 16:12-13, but of course only St. Luke gives us details.

I hope you concur that this is a pretty amazing list of great Gospel passages recorded only in Luke. Perhaps even more amazing is that I could probably come up with a second top ten list of beautiful passages unique to Luke (e.g., Canticle of Zechariah; Presentation in the Temple; Finding in the Temple; Jesus declares a Jubilee; Raising the Widow of Nain’s son; Parable of the Lost Coin; Parable of the Unjust Steward; Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus; Cleansing of the Ten Lepers; Zacchaeus). But the ten listed above are my favorites in this category.

What is your favorite passage from Luke?

By the way, I included an image of St. Luke with an ox. St. Luke’s Gospel is often represented by an ox, which is symbolic of Old Testament sacrifices and priesthood. St. Luke’s Gospel opens with Zechariah’s priestly service in the Temple.

A Lesson in Humility

10 Oct

pharisee and tax collectorI sometimes find it helpful to my spiritual life to put myself in the place of the characters in Our Lord’s parables. Of course, sometimes I put my wife in them as well. She’s 100% Irish, so I’ve lightheartedly renamed the Parable of the Persistent Widow, who nags the judge until she gets what she wants, the Parable of the Irish Woman.

One parable that I think teaches an important lesson to long-time Christians is the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector found in Luke 18. The Pharisee’s prayer is a laundry list of things the Pharisee is doing for God, while the Tax Collector humbly prays, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” The latter prayer was acceptable to God, the former wasn’t.

After a while, we might think we’re in control of our own destiny. At least we’re on cruise control. We’ve accepted Jesus as the Lord of our lives. We’ve become part of His family through the waters of Baptism. We recognize that acceptance of Jesus means the acceptance of His one, true Church and all that entails. We know that we are called to lead lives worthy of our calling. The Lord summons us to obey the Ten Commandments and, even more, to live lives of charity, often expressed in terms of spiritual (e.g., teaching others the faith, praying for others) and corporal (e.g., feeding the hungry, caring for the sick) works of mercy.

At least to some extent, some of us can say that we’re doing all this. So, when we come before the Lord, it can be very easy–at least for me–to relate more to the Pharisee than to the Publican in the above parable: “Yeah, Lord, I know I’m not perfect, but gee, look at all this stuff I’ve done and am doing to help spread Your kingdom. I’m one of the good guys. In fact, I work for the Archdiocese and am in formation for the permanent diaconate. You can’t get much more Catholic than that. Amen.”

Doing good things out of a living faith, hope, and charity are good and necessary. But the more fundamental truth is that we’re all sinners and, without God’s grace, we’re lost. Recognizing and living this truth is humility. Deep down, we all know this truth, but sometimes our thought processes and actions say otherwise. Jesus calls to Himself the “little ones,” but part of us wants to be “big shots.”

I had a friend named Larry who in jest would pray, “Lord, help me find a parking spot . . . never mind, I just found one.” It’s good for me recall this joke from time to time as a reality check. The fact of the matter is that it’s not about me. I get in the way far more often than I help the cause, and when I’m able to help a little, it’s because I was open to God’s grace working in my life, at least imperfectly.

Pride leads us to take the credit for our successes and blessings and brings about an ungodly discouragement in times of failure. The truth is that none of us is quite ready for canonization. Sanctification is God’s work–not ours–accomplished throughout the course of our lives. Speaking for myself, He still has a ton of work to do.

Regardless of what might happen during the course of the day, we do well to conclude our day with the prayer of the tax collector: “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”