A professor in the USF Business school spoke often about the need to prioritize demands and goals. In a business’ corporate activities, there are many demands and goals expressed by executives, employees, customers, suppliers, regulators, etc. All demands and goals need to be addressed, but not all are of equal importance. Consequently, a business must assign higher, or lower, priority to demands and goals in order to address them in a way most advantageous to the business. A business that lacks a sense of appropriate priorities is destined to waste time and resources.
The prioritizing of needs is equally important in one’s private life. Unfortunately, not all people give appropriate attention to priorities. It is a common occurrence to ignore one’s health care needs, or one’s spiritual needs. It is all too common to ignore difficulties in a relationship or to live in denial about one’s personal issues. The disorder that results from ignoring priorities can exact a high cost.
In today’s Gospel reading, the author says, “I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you.” (Lk 1:3) The Gospel author promises to tell the story of Jesus’ life “in an orderly sequence.” He is not referring to the chronology of events presented by other authors; rather, he is referring to the priority of events. Luke wanted his readers to understand what was most important to Jesus because Jesus’ priorities ought to be the priorities of Jesus’ disciples. Ignoring the priorities of discipleship leads to a very great deal of disorder in one’s life.
Throughout Luke’s Gospel, the author emphasizes the importance Jesus gave to the poor and the marginalized. Luke sets Jesus’ birth in the extreme poverty of an animal barn where his birth is attended by shepherds (who were among the least respected members of society). Jesus grew up in an insignificant village, the son of an itinerant laborer. During his ministry of teaching and healing, he sought out the afflicted and the suffering. The purpose of emphasizing the poverty of Jesus’ life, and the poverty of those to whom he ministered, was to portray Jesus as the embodiment of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
When God offered a Covenant to a People, God chose Israel rather than a greater nation. God redeemed Israel out of slavery in Egypt and gave the Covenant. If God had wanted to side with the rich and powerful, God could have sided with the Egyptians, the Hittites, or the Mycenaeans, but God chose the small, helpless people of Israel. Throughout Israel’s history, God repeatedly called the People back to faithfulness and justice. God’s humility is seen in God’s care for the humble; in his ministry of teaching and healing, Jesus acted with humble compassion toward the most needy and deprived. The “orderly sequence” that the author of Luke’s Gospel promises is orderly in the sense that it provides an accurate portrayal of Jesus as the one chosen to convey God’s humility and generosity to all.
We live in a culture that is very aware of the passing of time, the shortness of life, and the need to accomplish what one can in the time available. As a result, we tend to think of order as chronological progression. While it is certainly true that an accurate chronology is necessary for an ordered record of historical events, order in one’s life requires more than historical accuracy. Order in one’s life requires a thoughtful prioritizing of demands, needs, opportunities, and goals. This was the goal of the author of Luke’s Gospel: to provide an orderly portrayal of Jesus and his life so that we might order our lives according to the pattern of Jesus.
I should point out that I’m not referring to the orderliness of a properly alphabetized filing cabinet in an office or a linen closet full of neatly folded towels and sheets. The orderliness that Luke’s Gospel refers to is not an order imposed from outside or accomplished by an act of the will. The orderliness appropriate to a person’s life is the orderliness of enjoying consoling and peaceful relationships. Luke’s Gospel says that the evidence of such relationships is the example of orderliness and harmony that we give to others.
Jesus came “in the power of the Spirit” to inaugurate the renewal of creation, the new life in which the poor hear good news, captives are liberated, the blind see, the oppressed are set free, and all enjoy God’s favor. (Lk 4:18-19) Those who have tasted this new life through baptism are called now to be ministers of new life to others. On this day, when we give thanks for the renewal of our lives in baptism, to whom can you proclaim these glad tidings?