The goal of this short work is to present the final version of St Luke’s theological account of Pentecost. Throughout the different amendments of his texts (his Gospel and the book of the Acts of the Apostles), St Luke had different approaches to the event of Pentecost. The versions of Luke and Acts we have today in the New Testament are his final amended versions. In them we have a revolutionized way of understanding how Pentecost is applied and lived by each and every reader of his work. What is most surprising is that one event overshadows the rest, both in Acts and throughout Luke’s entire Gospel, most importantly in Chapter 1, and at its very heart – the Visitation of Mary to her kinswoman Elisabeth. Indeed this event illustrates that we are all called to be like Elisabeth and receive the Visit of Our Lady, bearing Our Lord, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
In this sense, the true meaning of the title, i.e. “Luke’s final Pentecost” should really be: Luke’s final version of Pentecost. In other words: Luke’s final theological understanding of how Pentecost can occur in the life of the reader.
A Question of Methodology
Note: If the reader is in a hurry, he or she can skip this part and start from the one that follows it: “When Luke was writing?”
All that follows is based on the exegetical work of two Dominican Exegetes, M.-E. Boismard op and A. Lamouille op. When I say “based” I don’t mean that this is what they say, but what will be stated below fits in well with their more recent research and findings on the New Testament writings and exegetical analysis. Throughout this article, their tandem work will be considered as one. From very early time (the seventies) the suggested options of Boismard on the history of the redaction of the texts seemed complex and were generally abandoned by many if not the majority, because of their complexities! People prefer a simplistic rendering of reality, even if, when one looks at the process of composition of an opus of many writers, it is often complex and would be even more complicated than Boismard’s idea of the history of the composition of the texts of the New Testament.
Even as a Theologian, I was never a great fan of the “fantasies” many exegetes brought to the public domain about the Bible, especially from the seventies onward. Faced with such extravagant analysis and opinions I followed the advice of my great master, Fr Louis Guillet ocd: it is better to stick to the most secure/certain conclusions of Exegetes and leave the rest until we have better results. This is wise advice, and it is what the Church usually does.
Accordingly, I paid attention to the most balanced Exegetes and built on their conclusions. My spiritual life and my field of specialisation, namely, Spiritual Theology, draw me to daily contact with the Scriptures. The Fathers of the Church and the mystics’ Exegesis helped me considerably. The synthetic presentation made by Henri de Lubac in his various books (“History and the Spirit”, “Mediaeval Exegesis”, “Bible in Tradition”,), show the great depths we can find in any passage of the Scriptures, and this remains a constant light valid for us even today. I always carried on deepening the legacy of the Fathers of the Church and the Mystics, day after day.
It is only providentially that I recently in 2017 came across Father Marie-Emile Boismard op and his teammate Father Arnaud Lamouille op. In fact, the timing was amazing, because all my reading and analysis of St Luke had prepared me to be open to their work. Seen from afar, their work might seem very dry, as it dissects the New Testament in search of the history of the redaction of the texts! My approach – especially to St Luke’s writings – is different: already for many years in my Lectio Divinaand my personal prayerful meditation of the Scriptures I had sensed in St Luke a certain purpose different from the most common ones we find amongst scholars and the general teaching. Because of my teaching, I spent hours meditating and commenting on the first chapter of St Luke’s Gospel! Certainly, my reading of some Exegesis books on his first two chapters left a deep imprint on my mind and heart, for example, Laurentin’s work on the Luke 1-2. More recently I tried to see if what the Lord was showing me in St Luke was confirmed by exegesis or was a pure fantasy of mine! If that was the case, then I felt I would have to abandon my foolish idea.
Consequently, in recent years, I have read a few books on Luke to update myself and see if what I saw corresponded to the sentiments of the Exegetes. It was fine. Sometimes they added amazingly interesting insights, like for instance some see in the narrative of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elisabeth (Luke 1) reminiscences from 1 Samuel 6 when the Ark of the Covenant is moved. But generally, my understanding wasn’t countered by exegesis.
When I came across the first texts of Fr. Boismard and saw his “theory” on how the Gospels were composed, it made a lot of sense to me and matched very well with what I was seeing already. Not only that but it even started to add more depth and clarity to what I was already noticing in general in amongst the Gospels.
Like many other exegetes – he doesn’t have an isolated option – Boismard shows us that for instance the gospel of St Luke had many layers of redaction of the texts of the Gospels. Through a very minute internal analysis of the texts (vocabulary, grammatical forms…) – studying the story of the redaction of the text – exegesis can find older layers within the text and therefore offer different plausible versions. When one looks for instance at the first possible versions of Luke and Acts and compares them with the last ones, one can notice some shifts, moves, decisions, options taken. This is utterly fascinating, especially if it all goes in a certain direction and confirms some intuition that one already can spot in the text in general exegesis.
When we consider the book of Acts we find another dimension to St Luke’s Theology, that is, we find the interwoven relationship between St Paul and St Luke. Of course, this is Luke’s account, not Paul’s. In this narrative we find what was the initial understanding of Christianity: Faith, Baptism, Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, and the new conditions offered to the Greeks. When studying the different layers of redaction, we can see as well that in the last versions there is a rethinking of the different elements. This certainly happened a few years later because of certain circumstances (see below).
In fact, willingly or not, Boismard is taking us through the history of the first decades after the Resurrection, until the final versions of the books of the New Testament as we have them now! Despite the number of books published, the task is not finished and is waiting for others to continue it.
The aim of this introduction is to say: what I am about to say is based on evidence coming from both Exegetical and Theological standpoints. What will follow, not only doesn’t challenge our actual perception of our faith, but it deepens it. Nonetheless, it is true that we are in for a great surprise! A very orthodox surprise but still a surprise.
When was Luke writing?
We often read, here and there, scholars and preachers saying that Luke is Paul’s disciple! We base that on the “we” accounts in Acts of the Apostle. There are accounts where Luke instead of saying “I” says: “we”. And the events clearly involve the presence of Paul. We deduce of course that Luke and Paul are together. On the other hand, some scholars do underline the difference between what Paul says about himself and his understanding of Faith and Christian Doctrine, and what Luke says about Paul. This is already a step towards some clarity.
Luke might have been a colleague or even a disciple of St Paul. There is nothing wrong in thinking this. But a closer look shows us the differences between the two doctrines. [“Luke in Acts shows little acquaintance with Paul’s Theology and no acquaintance with Paul’s letters” (Karris, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, p.675).] They are never opposed but one needs to bear in mind that Paul dies around the year 67. The last trip according to acts where they might have been united dates back to 58 maybe. It is true that the second letter to Timothy implies that Luke is with Paul almost until his death (67). When does Luke put his last touches to his writings? It could go as far as 84 or even toward the end of the 80s. This leaves Luke a lot of time to ponder and weigh things up and receive whatever graces he needed to address certain issues that St Paul didn’t have time to address!
Let us remember that a letter cannot be amended! We can have letters written after Paul has died bearing his name, which is quite commonly stated by many exegetes, but we never have a re-writing of a letter! We only have an initial one and only version, then we might have it copied and spread around in this way. Usually, no substantial change is made! In any case, this is how Exegesis works.
But, a Gospel or a book like the Acts of the Apostles has time till the last minute of the life of the author to be revised, improved, amended, changed!
What Paul says for instance in his most important letters (to the Galatians and to the Romans, to name some) has never been touched since and is like a still taken of what he thought around the years 53-58. A still is a still. The picture won’t change. In a sense, all that St Paul says is an early version of the understanding of Christian Doctrine! Probably the earliest! If one considers the fifteen to more than twenty-five years in which his understanding of Christian Doctrine matured, one can accept that this evolved, improved and deepened. In addition, the Communities might have faced different “dangers” and would have had time, with the help of the Holy Spirit to respond to it. Here is the Prophecy Luke puts into St Paul’s mouth: “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” (Acts 20:28) Here is the full text:
“From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeksthat they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the Good News ofGod’s Grace.
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among youand will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”(Acts 20:13-35)
Note: The two letters to Timothy show us the general belief in a prophecy saying that “in the last days terrible times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1). “last days” means after Paul’s death. “Now the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will abandon the faith to follow deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). “For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires.”(2 Timothy 4:3)
Did Paul really say this Prophecy, exactly as stated? It is possible; the letters to Timothy seem to confirm it! What is certain is that this is what Luke wants us to know and think. Paul dies as a martyr around 67! What happened after that? Who are these wolves? What did they want? What did they preach and claim? Luke alone had to deal with it, until the end of his life in 80? Longer?! (Of course, this is only if we accept the fact that the author of all the versions of Luke’s writings is the same author.) This gave Luke a lot of time! To the point that some consider the author of Acts as being another author belonging to the third generation of Christians.
In fact, I find great coherence between the actual final forms of Acts and Luke and do accept that the author is the same throughout, i.e. Luke himself.
The Importance of the Johannites’ Crisis
The “Johannites” is a coined expression used by some Exegetes to allude to a group of Disciples of St John the Baptist, who received his Baptism, who then recognised Jesus as the real Messiah, but wo had never heard of any other Baptism!
Many of Jesus’ Disciples and Apostles were first disciples of the Baptist himself. There is nothing strange about this. We usually consider that the majority of them became disciples of Jesus! But this is not the only case! A growing community of followers of the Baptist, who recognised Jesus as the real Messiah, grew after the resurrection and Paul’s evangelisation.
Now, before talking about what should be considered as a real crisis in the Church, let us examine the first Crisis as stated by St Luke in Acts 15: is the Gospel also for the Greeks (the Gentiles) or is it only for the Jews! We see by the accounts in Acts how the Apostles were forced to accept the Greeks into the new Faith, when they saw that God had also given the Holy Spirit to the Greeks.
Now the first crisis emerges with the following double question: what should we impose on the Greeks? Should we impose the Law of Moses on them? Should we not impose it? If so, how then can they be justified? How can they please God?
The first Council of Jerusalem, St Paul’s intervention and later letters to the Galatians and to the Romans are key elements that offer the divine solution to the first Crisis of the Church. It completely opened the way for the rest of the non-Jewish world to receive salvation, and in addition, through Jesus, it offered a deeper understanding of the New Law and its fulfilment: to believe in Jesus and receive his Holy Spirit, to be purified and therefore guided by the Holy Spirit, fulfilled all the Law and Prophets and offered real change in the human being and finally perfection.
If we read the Acts of the Apostles in a hasty way, we may conclude that this was the central crisis and once resolved they lived happily ever after and all was fine! However, in fact, this is only the first crisis. Maybe Luke didn’t have the time and desire to re-write his book, but a few years afterwards another crisis emerged! We have enough traces of it in the book of Acts and the Gospel of St Luke that we need to address it: it is the emergence of the sect of the Johannites amongst Christians! They recognise Jesus as the true and only Messiah, but the problem with them is that they have no idea or recognition of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit – they have never heard of the existence of the Holy Spirit! Can we have a Christianity without the Holy Spirit? Certainly not! So, what shall we do?
In my humble opinion, if we carefully read the exegetical works of Boismard-Lamouille (amongst others) we can have a clearer idea of the solutions adopted by the “final Luke”, i.e. the last redaction of Acts and Luke’s Gospel.
What follows shows how Luke introduces us to the crisis. One has to admit that it is done in a very gentle and undramatic way, while in fact, theologically, it constitutes a powerful storm that could have wiped out Christianity at its core: the Holy Spirit and His role in the Church:
Chapter 18 from Acts:
“Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and travelled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the Way of God with greater accuracy. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.”(Acts 18:18-28)
Chapter 19 from Acts:
“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So, Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,”they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve menin all. Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So, Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”(Acts 19:1-10)
As we can see, Luke is clearly indicating that there are disciples (Apollos and the twelve disciples at Ephesus) who, at a certain point, mysteriously, didn’t have any clue about the Holy Spirit! Although we can see that a solution is quickly offered (a “quick fix”) the fact in itself is shocking, and nobody can stop us from thinking that the phenomena could have been in fact bigger or later spread once Paul had left Ephesus and other places and died. Paul’s warning certainly continued to resonate in the ears of the Ephesians and of St Luke: “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” “Savage wolves” What greater distortion would a Christianity be without the Holy Spirit! I don’t know which is worse, the first crisis (moving on to Preaching to the Gentiles) or this one!
As a conclusion, it is fair to say that a serious crisis arose in the Church after the death of St Paul and it seems that Luke alone had to deal with it. No Council was convoked, no decisions were taken by the Apostles. But we have better evidence than that in a lasting combined document that makes up a little more than a quarter of the New Testament (27.5%): the last amendments of Luke’s entire writings, namely, his Gospel and Acts.
The Aim of the Gospel of St Luke: To Offer A Personal Pentecost
Now that Luke alone has to face this new Crisis – Paul is probably dead by now – what are the solutions? Boismard shows us at least two different layers in the redaction of the account of Pentecost! An earlier one where the accent was on the extraordinary manifestations of the Holy Spirit (speaking in tongues, prophesizing,) and then a later one where the focus became one more on what could and should apply to all.
Let us be aware that very probably Luke feels the responsibility to clarify everything concerning the Holy Spirit. Everyone needs to receive the Holy Spirit. If on one hand he told us the story of how the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles gathered with Mary in the upper room, and if he showed us in different places in Acts how different groups received the Holy Spirit, his concern can be definitely seen to be for his reader: how could we offer the reader the possibility of having a personal experience of the Holy Spirit! If not this, then Christianity would become very similar to the cult of the Johannites, and even if it can bore any other name, the reality would be the same: they would be followers of Jesus who did not have the faintest knowledge of the existence of the Holy Spirit and most importantly did not experience Him.
Luke’s task is daunting: how can he offer the reader of the fourth, fifth and further generations, the experience of the Holy Spirit through a text, a narrative!
It is with this aim in mind that he will offer us the last revised text of his Gospel, the version we all can open and read today. The entire Gospel will be revised (and maybe Luke and Acts were one work and now are divided into two), having in mind a very clear task: to offer a more precise and accurate understanding of Christianity, which means keeping the entire pneumatic dimension, that is, the dimension of the Holy Spirit (Pneuma). This is evidenced in the event concerning Apollos that we have read above: “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him [Apollos], they invited him to their home and explained to him the Way of God with greater accuracy.”This perfectly illustrates Luke’s purpose: precision. And it is not at all a chronological or historical precision that he is aiming for, as many commentators put it. In fact, the structure of his entire Gospel is not at all chronologically historical because his plan is to go from Galilee to Jerusalem, so everything is following this plan. The precision is a doctrinal precision as explained by Act 18: Priscilla and Aquila explained the Way of God “with greater accuracy”! Let us, therefore, see how Luke introduces his Gospel in the light of what is at stake: bringing more accuracy about the doctrine of the Way (Christianity was considered as “the Way”), clarifying all that regards the Coming of the Holy Spirit, the personal Pentecost offered to the reader, to every reader, throughout the ages that follow:
“1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and became servants of the Word. 3 It seemed good also to me, having been acquainted from the beginning with all things carefully (with accuracy) with method (an orderly account) to write to you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”(Luke 1:1-4)
As we can see, “accuracy” is mentioned in the introduction of his work.
The entire structure of St Luke’s Gospel aims to offer a way of personally receiving the Holy Spirit. Of course, there are other goals, but the final version and revision made to the Gospel of St Luke, particularly emphasises this aspect.
Bearing this in mind, let us follow Luke’s own words: what He wants to show us is a way to “become servants/ministers of the Word”. “Word” here is the living Jesus, being God’s Word for each one of us, all His Word, light, guide and presence on the journey. The Holy Spirit, in veritas, has a central role in the journey of becoming a servant of the Word! As we will see in the next section, the Act of Faith always relates to a Word uttered by God to the human being, and faith is to believe that God is capable of fulfilling what He says to us, and this He fulfils with the Help of the Holy Spirit. Let us remember that the key to the incarnation and the immediate explanation the Angel offers as to how “this can happen” is: “the Holy Spirit will come upon you…”.
The First Chapter of St Luke’s Gospel
The Conditions for a True Pentecost
One has to admit that the first chapter of St Luke’s Gospel is a masterpiece, probably the most accomplished piece of the entire New Testament. It is probably one of the last pieces of the entire New Testament and one of the most mature ones, for it is a masterpiece of theological craftsmanship.
Since the general goal of St Luke is to offer us a means of becoming servants of the Word, the main act that commands the needed transformation is the Act of Faith. In the first chapter, St Luke lays down the foundations for the Act of Faith and he offers us Our Lady not only as an emblematic person who makes the Act of faith, but he will go further by stating that:
1- only Mary is capable to believe and this
2- she is the mother of all the believers.
Moreover, there is no contradiction between the teaching of St Paul and the one of St Luke. St Luke himself says at the beginning of his Gospel (see Luke 1:1) that he is basing his teaching on the previous existing teaching. Remember, St Luke claims to add greater precision and a “theological” order to the Christian Doctrine. Even given this, certainly, the core of the teaching is the same.
If St Paul and St Luke agree that it is necessary to justify Faith (see the letter to the Romans and the letter to the Galatians), there are differences! As we have said, Luke did have fifteen to twenty-five years to mature and deepen the conditions (requirements) of Justification. This deepening included what St Paul had essentially said in his letter to the Romans, and in his previous shorter letter to the Galatians (written in the years 53-58).
The first different element from St Paul is the exclusivity of Mary’s Faith (excluding of course the faith of Abraham and others). Another point that we don’t find in St Paul is the necessity of Mary’s faith for all of us, clearly signified by the presence of Mary at Pentecost, with the apostles gathered around her. The necessity of acknowledging that Mary believed for me – this is God’s plan for all of us!
For this reason, from the beginning of his Gospel Luke offers us a diptych: two annunciations, one that embodies any of us, the annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Zachariah, and the second that offer us Our Lady.
If St Luke is keen on showing us how Zachariah and his wife are righteous in the eyes of God and fulfilling all Moses’ commandments, and despite all this Zachariah (representing each one of us) is not capable of believing the Word the Angel Gabriel is conveying to him from God, this shows us that the righteousness of the first Covenant is not enough to make us believe in the Word of God: i.e. to listen to it and put it into practice. Something more is needed.
Believing in the Word of God, believing that God can fulfil what He says is the “act of faith” according to St Luke, which Zachariah fails to make. He moves on now to the second Annunciation showing us the only person who is capable of believing: Mary. She believes in all that the Angel imparts to her from God. But the most important part in Mary’s annunciation is the second half of it where he mentions the ones who couldn’t believe the Words of God transmitted by the Angel: Zachariah (and Elisabeth). When the Angel mentions Elisabeth, we can clearly see that Luke shows the challenging aspect of believing that Elisabeth is pregnant: she is old and wasn’t able of conceiving.
By interweaving the two narratives and the faith, or lack of it, of the recipients in the two annunciations, Luke has a very clear aim which, furthermore, will be developed and confirmed in the visitation and the Magnificatin order to show us, first, that anyone, and not only Zachariah, is incapable of believing in the Word of God, in the New Covenant, and secondly that only Mary, the real golden Ark of the Covenant (Full-of-grace), is capable of believing, and last but not least, that Mary believed for herself and for each one of us when she believed that her cousin (who is old and barren) was pregnant.
It is during the Visitation of Our Lady to her cousin Elisabeth where Luke develops these aspects by showing us the meeting between the only one who is capable of believing, Luke will develop these aspects during the Visitation of Our Lady to her cousin Elisabeth by showing us the meeting between the only one who is able of believing and where the inability to believe is clearly acknowledged in the person of her cousin! acknowledgment of the incapacity to believe!
What we need to “see” here is something of utmost importance: Elisabeth, hearing Mary’s greeting, is filled by the Holy Spirit. It is Luke’s way of offering each one of us, through the person of Elisabeth a personal Pentecost, giving us in great detail the conditions for this Pentecost, and its use: giving birth in us to the first Act of faith in the Word, and ensuring that we make such acts of faith for the rest of our lives. for the rest of our life to make such acts of Faith.
Mary, in her Magnificat, will confirm this deep and new dimension of her spiritual maternity toward each one of us by saying: “all generations will call me blessed”! Elisabeth had previously explained why Mary should be considered “Blessed”: “blessed is she who believed in the fulfilment of what was spoken to her from God” (Luke 1:45). This verse is amazingly crafted showing the most important aspect of Mary, and at the same time the practical structure of the Act of Faith. Mary herself is the perfect, unique embodiment of the Act of Faith as presented by St Luke: “let it be to me according to your Word”. She believed that the double word said by the Angel could be realised by God, by his Power: the Holy Spirit.
(*Note that by “double word” is meant: one for Mary (she will conceive) and one about her Cousin (she conceived despite the fact that she is old and barren))
As Mary did with Elizabeth and Zachariah, going to visit them in haste, she does with each one of us. To each one of us Christians, there is a moment when Mary comes and knocks at the door of our hearts and greets us. When the Angel mentioned to Mary that her cousin was already pregnant, he waited for her Act of Faith, her “yes” to this news as well as to her own. In fact, she answered God and said: “let it be for me according to your word”.
Her “yes” is for two Words given by the angel: the word for her and the word for and about her cousin. Elisabeth represents all of us, and Mary’s “yes” is said for all of us. This is why Luke presents this episode to us, and this is why Mary will say: “all the Generations (all of us) will call me blessed”! It is because she believed for each one of us, becoming thereby the mother of our Faith.
In this way, and after receiving the Holy Spirit upon hearing Mary’s Greeting, her Cousin, through her and with her, was enabled to say: “yes” thereby acknowledging that Mary was blessed because she believed for Zachariah and for all of us.
In a word then, Luke is telling us that Mary’s knocks comes to each one of us, comes at the door of our life, and brings us the “capacity to believe”.
Note:And, “en passant”, let us notice how the text places John the Baptist in his rightful place, well beneath the only Saviour, his own Saviour: Jesus. As the Angel prophesized to Zachariah, John the Baptist was filled by the Saviour’s Grace, by the Mother of the Saviour’s Greeting, by the Holy Spirit, an essential point for Luke! If we now recall the “Johannites” crisis, we can see that this is the “final nail in the coffin” for their theories and very incomplete faith. Here is what Elizabeth says: “from where is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”(Luke 1:43)
General Note: Luke’s influence on our faith, on the entire Christian Revelation. Luke is not only the one who composed Luke and Acts, but he also had an influence on other writings. We need to add that according to Father Boismard and other Exegetes, the Gospels of Matthew and John were revised and brought into harmony with this last version of St Luke’s writings! In this sense the footprint of St Luke in Christianity is huge! Not only did he he quantitatively write a third of the New Testament (Luke and Acts), but he contributed to the final blending of the gospels of with St Matthew and St John! Impressive!
Finally, what is the conclusion we can come to for all this? Luke was faced with clear evidence of the potential development the potential developing of a new deviation in the faith, coming from the Johnnanite’s interpretation of the Messiah and his message, his salvation, and, as a result, he had to find answers to this. He saw what St Paul, his companion and maybe early master, offered: his letters to the Romans and to the Galatians. He certainly received very deep graces and help from God in order to find a solution. Indeed! We can’t explain his solutions with the early data he had available from the Apostles and from St Paul were it not for these graces. What he is offering is a new and higher synthesis of Christianity, and a new description of Our Lady as a key person for Faith. The Faith that St Paul praised relentlessly in his letter to the Romans and the author of the letter to the Hebrews, now, under Luke’s pen is embodied in one person: the unique and perfect disciple of Jesus, Mary, and the mother of all potential disciples! This is quite a statement!
Not only this, but at the same time, the Holy Spirit has in the version of the Way, a clearer and sharper role to play: He is the one who helps incarnate the Word of God.
We reach, here, the most perfect and final version of St Luke’s writings.
Here is Luke’s good news for our Faith: Mary is knocking at the door of your heart; do you hear her knocking? And when you open to her, do you hear her personal greeting to you? Do you acknowledge that you can’t believe for Faith is a Gift? That she believed for you? That you can now believe through Mary’s Faith?
The final and wondrous conclusion we come to is that by receiving Mary’s visit and greeting we have our personal Pentecost! We experience God’s Mercy, giving us not only Faith, but the one who is our mother in Faith, the one who believed for us. We then can celebrate God’s Mercy with Mary our Mother.
Monday Pentecost 2018: Feast of Mary Mother of the Church
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