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December 7, 2015

It is surely no coincidence that Pope Francis established the Church's Year of Mercy to coincide with Year C in the Lectionary, the year featuring the Gospel of Luke. Luke's Gospel has several theological purposes, not the least of which are his emphases on God's forgiveness of sinners and on the inclusion of all in the messianic kingdom.

In Luke's Gospel alone do we find such parables as the rich man and the poor Lazarus, the good Samaritan, the prodigal son and the woman seeking the lost coin. Only in Luke do we hear the stories of Jesus' meeting with Zacchaeus and that of the crucified good thief who will enter God's kingdom with Jesus. Only in Luke do we find several banquet scenes emphasizing that sinners too have a place in the kingdom. Only in Luke do we hear Mary praising God for having brought "the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly."

Jesus, in Luke's Gospel, challenged the notion that a community was pure and holy if it dissociated itself from sinners. Holiness, rather, involves justice, compassion and the inclusion of all. Those left on the outside should be brought back into the fold.

According to Scripture scholar Eric Franklin, Luke's vision "was fundamentally a message of hope based on the vision of God's wide embrace through Christ."

This vision not only challenged the Jewish leaders of Jesus' time, but also challenges Christians today. Our pondering of Luke's Gospel should lead us to seek out those in our schools, parishes and workplaces whom others ignore - people of different ethnicities, people whose behaviour is "different," people who are on their own. Mercy, as Luke repeatedly demonstrates, means not only forgiveness, but also inclusion of the outsider.