“A First Century Exclusive” by Rachael Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Have you ever noticed how in certain shows like “The Office” or “Parks and Rec,” the actors sometimes break the fourth wall by looking directly into the camera? Maybe there was a wacky side character going on and on about something like “I think I’ve gained mind-reading abilities through this foil hat that I’ve started wearing…” and the moment they leave, the other character looks directly at the audience, wide-eyed, to hilariously share a reaction like, “whoa – that was crazy – don’t you agree?”

It’s always really intriguing when the fourth wall is broken, when TV characters for a moment acknowledge that people are watching them on a show, or when actors on stage start talking to the audience. This Sunday, we hear the very beginning of the Gospel according to St. Luke, and it breaks the “4th wall” when the basically author introduces himself and explains for a moment why and for whom he is writing the Gospel. It is historically agreed upon that author, Luke, was a well-educated man who was a doctor by day, writer by night. He was commissioned by a man called “Theophilus” some 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion to write everything down – the things the early Christians had been experiencing and the actual eye witness accounts of the people who directly saw Jesus after he resurrected from the dead. Theophilus must have been a man of some kind of wealth, who was like “Luke, I’ve heard a lot about this Jesus guy—a lot of strange things like walking on water, multiplying bread, coming back to life after he was dead. You’re an educated fellow who likes the facts – can you do a little bit of digging for me and see what you come up with?” It seems that Theophilus wanted to know an account of the full story, as best as possible, from a reputable scholar – not just Joe-Shmoe from the gym.

Right at the beginning, Luke says “I’m not the first person to write this stuff down, but I’m a pretty qualified guy who’s done a lot of research and this is what I’ve discovered.”  Luke was a first-century version of an investigative journalist. He sought out St. Paul (who was imprisoned and condemned to death by the Romans), pulled some serious strings to get a bunch of exclusive interviews from the prison cell, and as a result was able to write the Gospel of Luke and the sequel explaining what happened next – in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke’s account of the Gospel has some details the others do not have. We get a little bit more dirt on the disciples of Jesus; Luke reveals more of their human flaws and highlights the idea of mercy and forgiveness. We hear some accounts of female disciples that weren’t covered in the other Gospels. Luke also wrote for a wider audience – for those who weren’t originally in the Jewish or Christian “club,” so to speak, and explains all of the amazing things he has found to be true about Jesus, and invites everyone to become a disciple, no matter their background.

I like to imagine Luke taking a moment before he launches into the narrative to share a moment of eye contact with us, his audience, as if to say “whoa – this is crazy, don’t you agree? But the craziest part is, it’s all true.”

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