Luke’s Gospel is the most broad-minded and the most forgiving. Every chance he gets, Luke has Jesus forgiving people, right up to the good thief on the cross. Luke is quite ready to see God as generous, gratuitous, and merciful. Mercy and inclusivity—Jesus’ ministry to outcasts, to gentiles, to the poor—are emphasized a great deal in Luke. In this approach, Luke’s sacred text is also called the gospel of women. Far more than any other evangelist, Luke brings women into Jesus’ life and shows Jesus’ unique way of relating to women. He wants to make Jesus available to the forgotten and diminished.
Luke’s has also been called the gospel of absolute renunciation. For Luke, to be a disciple one has to let go of everything—not just money or other external idols, but inner idols and ego concerns as well. Luke advocates radically new social patterns of relationship. His is an upside-down gospel: “The first will be last and the last will be first” (Luke 13:30). Luke uses every story he can to show that what impresses people does not impress God, that people who think they are at the top are often, in God’s eyes, at the bottom, and that people who think they are at the bottom are, in God’s eyes, often at the top.
One could sum up the Bible as an interplay of fear and faith. In general, people are obsessed and overpowered by fears; they fear what they cannot control. God is one of our primary fears because God is totally beyond us. The good news, the gospel, according to Luke, is that God has breached that fear and become one of us in Jesus. God says, in effect, “It’s okay. You don’t have to live in chattering fear of me.” God’s response to Mary’s quaver at the angel’s appearance is, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:30).
In Luke’s infancy narrative, Mary is presented as prototypical and archetypal, because God comes into her life and announces the Divine Presence within her. Through the same Spirit, God comes into our lives and announces the Divine Presence within us. This annunciation event is a paradigm of every mystical experience. God offers Godself to us even before we invite God into our lives. All we are asked to do is be present and open. When Mary manifests this presence and openness, she accepts God’s presence.
The gospel cannot happen in your head alone. You never think yourself into a new way of living. You invariably live yourself into a new way of thinking. The gospel is about relationship. Unless there is someplace on this earth where it’s happening between you and another person, I don’t believe you have any criterion to judge whether it’s happening at all. Unless you’re in right relationship with at least one other person on this earth, unless there is some place you can give and receive love, I don’t think you have any reason to think you’re living the gospel.
Is there at least one place in your life where you are giving and receiving love? If it happens in one place, it can happen everywhere. If you are truly capable of loving one person, you’re capable of loving more than one, and eventually even your enemy, and finally all. Love is one piece. Thus, we rightly speak of being “in love” and Paul speaks of being “in Christ.” Love is all or nothing. You either express love or you don’t.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke: Spiritual Reflections