We are surely all extremely familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son. It is unique to the Gospel of Luke and is a wonderful lesson in forgiveness. It has been the Gospel chosen for countless services of reconciliation and maybe some of us are so familiar with it that we have forgotten just what a wonderful story it is.
The opening phrase of today’s Gospel is rather puzzling. Can Jesus really be telling us to hate our very closest relatives? And can he who came to give us life insist that we hate our own lives? Many scholars suggest that what we are dealing with is a difficulty of translation. They suggest that Jesus does not actually mean that we should hate our lives or those close to us. They tell us that the idiom used in Hebrew actually means ‘love less’ and not literally ‘hate’. This then leaves us with the idea that we should love Jesus even more than we love our own close family or even our own lives.
The Gospel this Sunday is about humility. Christ urges us not to shove ourselves forward in an ambitious way trying to make ourselves out to be better or more important than we actually are. He says that the better thing for us is to be modest and unassuming; and if by doing this you have undervalued yourself, others will surely rectify the situation for you.
The readings today seem to be about salvation and the question of the villager is as relevant today as when it was first posed: Will only a few be saved? And then there is the question behind the question: Will I be saved?
At first glance the extract from St Luke’s Gospel set before us today is probably seen by many as rather distressing and difficult. Quite naturally we want our families to be united and we also believe that Jesus wants the same thing for us. And so to hear him saying that he has not come to bring peace on earth but rather division and that from now on families will be divided three against two, two against three, we find quite difficult and contradictory.
The text of the Gospel presented to us today looks like a mish-mash of different sayings by Jesus put together because they are all on the general theme of watchfulness. The Evangelists didn’t go around with notebooks writing down whatever Jesus said. In the case of Luke, he most definitely didn’t go around following Jesus because he wasn’t there at the time. The first we hear of Luke is in Antioch where he became a disciple of Paul.
The fellow in the Gospel today who asks Jesus to arbitrate in his claim for his brother to give him his share of the inheritance sounds a bit like the Prodigal Son in the parable we know so well. Both the man in today’s Gospel and the Prodigal Son seem to want to exercise their independence and to go their own way apart from their families
We have a text from the Gospel of Luke today in which Jesus talks about prayer. First of all, he tells his disciples to address God as Father and gives them the prayer we know today as the Lord’s Prayer. The version of this prayer we are given in Luke is slightly shorter than the one given in Matthew where he includes the additional line ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We have for our Gospel text the very brief and simple story of Martha and Mary. Martha is busy serving the meal and getting things ready for her important guest while Mary sits at the Lord’s feet listening to him. When Martha complains that Mary is not helping to get the meal ready Jesus tells her that she shouldn’t fret so much and he informs her that Mary has chosen the better part.
Today for our Gospel reading we are given the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells the young man who inquires how he might be justified that he should love God and his neighbour. I don’t know if he was trying to be smart or what but the young man asks, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ This gives Jesus the opportunity to tell the parable about the Good Samaritan.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket