Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
With Labor Day this week, we make the unofficial transition from summer to fall. We make a liturgical transition this week, too: We start reading the Gospel of Luke, which will carry us to the beginning of Advent. Psychologists say it takes 90 days to establish a new habit. Well, we have the next three months with the Gospel of Luke. If we were to pick something from Luke and make it our focus for the next 90 days to establish a new Gospel habit, what might it be?
We might focus our attention on the great parables of mercy, which are found only in Luke — the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost (prodigal) son — and ask: How can we imitate, more effectively, the God who seeks out the lost?
We might focus our attention on Mary the way Luke does and ask: How could we receive Jesus into our souls as Mary received Him into her body, and how can we bring Him forth in our words and deeds as she brought Him forth from her womb?
We might focus on how the Gospel of Luke is constantly turning worldly expectations upside down, and ask: What worldly expectations need to be turned upside down in order to let the kingdom break forth more quickly and deeply in our own lives?
All of those are good things; each is worthy of 90 days of focus! But I’d like to propose something else — something that comes up repeatedly in this week’s readings from Luke, something that the world sorely needs, and something we need to get better at. It’s the combination of boldness and prudence in how Jesus makes His identity known to the world.
We hear about Jesus’ boldness at the beginning of the week. He goes to Nazareth, and He’s not afraid to say hard things in His hometown, things that arouse opposition, things that almost get Him hurled from the mountain!
But this is immediately followed by two episodes in which Jesus silences the demons. The wording is important: “But He rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that He was the Christ.” Notice the nuance: Jesus won’t let them speak even though what they’re saying is true. Timing is important, and it’s not yet the right time for the open declaration of His identity.
Finally, at the end of the week, we hear about Jesus’ boldness again. In a dispute with the Pharisees, after engaging in some traditional Rabbinic argumentation, Jesus concludes with the bold declaration: “The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”
All of salvation history shows us how God presses His plan forward both with determination and patience. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, shows the same pattern: His proclamation of the truth is both bold and prudent.
That, I think, is a great Gospel habit for us to learn. We tend to fall short on one or the other point: We can be bold to the point of intemperate zeal, and we can be prudent to the point of timidity. I propose this: Let’s take the next 90 days and study, in the Gospel of Luke, how Jesus blends boldness and prudence in perfect measure. Then, having studied it, let’s try to imitate Him more perfectly. That would be a blessing to us and to the world!