Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Sunday Word

Today's Gospel text begins with one of Luke's periodic signposts, set up to remind us that this episode is still a part of a large travel narrative in Luke. This crazy-quilt of stories, parables and incidents stands apart from the rest of Luke's tightly woven, thematically skeined text. 

Saint Luke stockpiles a series of texts that could easily stand independently.The opening scene today, then, serves as another Lukan reminder to us that this journey is still underway, with Jesus going "through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem." In fact, this pericope begins a sort of travelogue section. The general theme behind this Lukan section, explicitly stated in this today's text, is that "the last shall be first."

Saint Luke's verbal picture here is of a teaching Jesus, lecturing in the streets, surrounded by a milling crowd of believers, doubters, disciples and curious hangers-on. From this mixed crowd comes the question from "someone" about "who will be saved." We do not know whether this questioner was a devoted disciple or a troublemaker trying to get Jesus into a tight spot. However, Jesus' response makes it quite clear that the wrong question has been asked, and that he will only address the appropriate issue. Jesus ignores the "how many" question of a sensationalist who hopes to discover some horrifyingly juicy tidbit of information. Instead he chooses to address the question of "who" will be saved and why. Thus he shifts the focus to each individual's expression of faithfulness.