By now you must be quite familiar with the Gospel of Luke. Each Sunday we hear selected readings. Luke has a number of important themes that run through his Gospel. I wonder if you have spotted some of them.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned again and again. Of John the Baptist, Luke writes, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Lk 1: 15) The Gospel concludes with, “..stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.
Other themes are: universal salvation; concern for the outcast and the poor; money and material wealth; mercy and compassion; the importance of prayer; joy.
Luke conveys his own positive, cheerful disposition as he writes. “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (10: 20), “my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (1: 47), and then he closes with, “they returned to Jerusalem with great joy”. (24: 52)
At the time of Jesus’ earthly life and when Luke was writing, the status of women in society was extremely low. There was little rejoicing when a girl was born. When she married she became a servant and a possession of her husband. If she was widowed then it was from her son that she drew her identity. If a widow had no son she faced a life of poverty and almost total insecurity. This is what makes Jesus’ raising of the son of the Widow of Naim so significant.
Jesus enters this society accepting women as equals. Early in the Gospel Jesus announces his mission, “Bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, let the oppressed go free.” (4: 18) Women were the hidden poor, the captives, the silent oppressed. Again and again we will see Jesus bringing his Good News to women.
Luke follows his Masters’ example throughout his writing. (7: 11-17) Always careful to treat men and women equally, Luke pairs the story of the Widow of Naim with the raising of the daughter of Jairus.
The Gospel contains many such pairings. There are two annunciations. First the birth of John the Baptist is announced to his father Zechariah and then the angel visits Mary with a similar message.
This pattern continues when the infant Jesus is presented in the temple. First Simeon announces universal salvation in the Nunc Demitis (Now, Master, you may let your servant go…) (2: 29-32) and then Anna “Gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” (2: 38)
Twice Jesus finds himself in hot water for seemingly breaking the laws of Sabbath observance. He cures the woman who has been bent double for 18 years. (13: 10-17) Then it is the man suffering from dropsy. (14: 1-6)
We will pause for a moment to look at the story of the crippled woman. The leader of the synagogue said, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not the Sabbath Day.” One can imagine this self-important man telling a woman who has been crippled for eighteen years to, “Come back on Sunday.” Jesus speaks out boldly against such insensitivity. The story concludes; “When Jesus had said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.” One can picture the pompous officials’ embarrassment. The crowd, who had probably had to put up with this kind of non-sense for years are delighted. Certainly, delighted for the woman.
Jesus gives the woman the title, “Daughter of Abraham”. He gives the same title to Zacchaeus. All presumed that Zacchaeus was a sinner, because of his profession. Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to his house because of this man who is a Son of Abraham.” (19: 9)
Here’s a question for you. Who were the people who formed Jesus founding community? I am sure most of us would answer, “The Twelve Apostles”. Luke however sees it differently. “Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, .. Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.” Surprised!! This would have made quite a photograph!
We find this group of people present at Calvary, “.. all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee.”
It is the women who take the spices, they had prepared, to the tomb on Sunday morning. They find the stone rolled away. They announced all these things to the “eleven and all the others.” “The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles. (24: 11)
How typically male was the response, “but their story seemed like nonsense.”
Makes one think. Have we much to change in our attitude towards women?