Jesus in the Gospel of Luke | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn | Introduction to Jesus, The Divine Physician: Encountering Christ in the Gospel of Luke
A few years ago, within the framework of an ecumenical celebration and dedication, I was able to visit the new operational center of the Workers' Samaritan Association in Vienna.
The Workers' Samaritan Association (no connection with the British Samaritans) is a kind of local Red Cross with a clear commitment to social democracy. For a long time, Austrian Socialists were reputed to be-and many of them were-critical of the Church, or even opposed to her. That was part of the sad heritage of the division in our country [Austria] that led in 1934 to a brief but violent civil war. The tragic division of the country into "blacks" and "reds" played no small part in the illegal rise of the "browns", the National Socialists [Nazis], which ended with the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria [to Germany]. The picture of the crucifixion that hung in the archbishop's palace in Vienna (shown on the cover of this book) and that was vandalized by fanatical Hitler Youth members is a symbol of the way that only the common suffering under the Nazi persecution brought "reds" and "blacks" together again. Against this background, the dedication to which I just referred was moving and symbolic.
Why am I mentioning this in the introduction to the Gospel readings of the "year of Luke"? On account of the name Workers' Samaritan Association! The image of the good Samaritan comes from the Gospel. It is among the best known of Jesus' parables. It has become the standard example of loving one's neighbor, far beyond the circles of Church "insiders"—so much so, that a completely "red" organization sees its work in helping the victims of accidents, needy people, and the sick as "Samaritan work", without its having any connection with the Church. It is simply a matter of helping one's neighbor who is in need, irrespective of his race, religion, or political views.
The parable of the good Samaritan, however, is found only in Luke's Gospel. It is about Luke and his Gospel that we are now talking, and, in the following pages, that Gospel will be our guide through all the Sundays of the Church's year (Lectionary year C).
Each of the four Gospel writers has his own style, his own sources, his own emphases, and things that only he tells us about. Only all four together produce the whole and unmistakable picture of Jesus. Each of the Gospels adds its own particular note, so that we are quite right in talking about the picture of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew or the picture of Christ in the Gospel of John-and certainly also the picture of Christ in the Gospel of Luke.
It is only in the four canonical Gospels that the Church has recognized the canonical picture of Christ, the true and original picture. It is certainly not by chance that these are also the four oldest accounts of Jesus that we have. The many other gospels, which without exception are clearly later, were not recognized by the Church as being genuine, even if there may be one or another original saying of Jesus in them. Almost every year, one of these numerous so-called apocryphal gospels is brought forward as a new sensation, as happened just recently with the gospel of Judas. Usually it is not mentioned that people have known about them for a long time and that the works have been studied by specialists. Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, for instance, talks about the gospel of Judas at the end of the second century and demonstrates that it is a late forgery.
But what argues far more strongly in favor of the genuineness of the four oldest Gospels is their incomparable spiritual power. Jesus himself is speaking in them. His spirit, his heart, and his transforming power can be felt at work in them. They are not just human discourse and human wisdom. They are also that; but, shot through with the fire of the Holy Spirit, they are truly God's word.
What picture would we have of Jesus without the parable of the good Samaritan? How much, altogether, would be missing from our picture of Jesus if we had no Gospel of Luke! I myself was almost horrified when I discovered, with the help of a synopsis (that is, a parallel edition of the four Gospels), how much of what is quite essential in our picture of Jesus is owed to Luke's alertness in bringing it all together.
Only he tells us the three parables about the way that God's love patiently seeks for us men: the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost penny, and above all—perhaps Jesus' best-known parable—the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15). What a marvelous picture of God Jesus offers us in this parable!