Biblical commentators tell us that Luke was one of the most accomplished authors in the early Church. Each of the two books he wrote, his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, begins with a formal introduction modeled on the classical style of ancient literature. In each, Luke addresses a man named Theophilus, which means literally, a “lover of God.” No one knows if this name refers to a real or fictitious person invented by Luke. But Luke was also a masterful theologian and managed to closely connect the ministry of Jesus with the early history of the Church. As we come to the end of the Easter Season, the Church will greatly rely on Luke’s writing to complete for us the full meaning of the story of Easter.
Our second reading presents a profound description of the Father’s work in the exaltation of Jesus. Though the language is dense, and the translation adopted by the Church perhaps not the most advantageous, it is worth reflecting closely on the message of this reading. Today’s reflection will try to provide a context for this reading that hopefully will aid our understanding.
Some background can be helpful for a greater appreciation of our gospel reading. The formal ending of Mark’s gospel strikes one as excessively abrupt. The gospel seems to end almost in mid-sentence. Even in antiquity, early scribes tried to soften this impression by adding alternate endings, mostly borrowed from one or other of the gospels of Matthew or Luke. What we have in today’s gospel reading is one of those “borrowed” endings. The gospel has been chosen for today because of the mention of the Ascension, which of course is recounted both in Matthew and in Luke.
—Walter Modrys SJ
This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.