As I was thinking back on my post of yesterday on reading the Gospels, I remembered a discussion with one of my former spiritual directors, a Jesuit named Bill Walsh, about the Gospels. Once Bill suggested that I pray through the Gospels one by one, rather than simply using the daily Mass readings for my daily prayer (which is often, although not always, my practice).
The reason for his suggestion was something he always emphasized: the importance of being aware of whose portrait of Jesus we are praying with. We don’t always pay attention to the differences among the Gospels (something it is hard to do when we are just hearing a snippet of a single Gospel read during Mass) and praying through the Gospels one at a time gives us a chance to better appreciate the portrait created by a particular author. There are many ways of talking about the differences among the Gospels. What I wrote in my journal after a conversaion with Bill on this subject was his Bill’s description of the need to understand that (a) Luke was speaking to a Gentile audience; (b) Matthew presents the Jewishness of Jesus; (c) Mark presents the most human portrait of Jesus; and (d) John presents the most divine portrait.
You may think of the Gospels differently. Some, in talking about Luke, for example, stress his concern for the marginalized. But however you characterize them, the general point of the value of sensitivity to a particular writer’s audience, motive and concerns is an important one that will enrich our reading of, and prayer with, the Gospels.