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r 17, 2016

Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist

St. Luke

October 18th, is the feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist, a pivotal figure in the Apostolic Church, best known for the Gospel bearing his name. Born in Antioch, Syria to Greek parents, he converted to the Faith. Luke is the only gentile to author a book in the New Testament, of which, his two contributions, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, comprise about a third. Luke’s primary audience was gentile converts to Christianity. Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians refers to him as “Luke, the beloved physician”, (Col. 4:10-14) the profession most often ascribed to him. His extensive command of Greek and literary acuity suggest he was well-educated and worldly. Some scholars regard Luke as a historian due to his methodical presentation of the various events surrounding Christ’s life and earthly ministry.

Luke accompanied Paul on several missionary journeys and was with him in Rome where Paul was imprisoned before being martyred. During this time, Luke met numerous individuals who had known Jesus. One such person was the Virgin Mary. His vivid account of her activities before, during and after the Nativity of Christ, (including the Annunciation, Visitation and the visit of the Magi) could only have come from the Theotokos herself. Likewise, Luke’s Gospel contains most of what we know about Jesus and the Holy Family prior to our Lord’s hidden years. Who but Mary could have told him the things she pondered in her heart?

The Gospel according to Luke goes to great lengths to explain Jewish customs to gentile readers. Several stories speak to that audience directly. Eleven parables exclusive to Luke evoke God’s mercy, forgiveness and care for the marginalized. They are: the Two Debtors, (Luke 7:41-43) the Good Samaritan, (Luke 10:30-37) the Importunate Friend, (Luke 11:5-8) the Rich Fool, (Luke 12:16-21) the Barren Fig-tree, (Luke 13:6-9) the Lost Piece of Silver, (Luke 15:8-10) the Lost Son, (Luke 15:11-32) the Unrighteous Manager, (Luke 16:1-9) the Rich Man and Lazarus, (Luke 16:19-31) the Unjust Judge, (Luke 18:1-8) and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14). These parables share a common theme. They emphasize that Christ is the Savior of all, especially the repentant sinner and the lowly. God’s covenant with the Jews has been extended to everyone. Jesus offers His salvation to both Jew and Gentile alike.

The Evangelist considered his Gospel and the Book of Acts to be one account in two parts. In Acts of the Apostles, we follow Luke’s journey in Christian ministry. Much of Acts is written in the third person, like a historian presenting facts. However, occasionally, Luke conveys events he had witnessed firsthand (as in Acts 16). This would explain the more detailed portrayals of St. Paul’s missionary travels. Luke’s account in Acts is the only Apostolic record of the founding of Christianity and the spread of the Good News throughout the Roman Empire. Beginning with Christ’s Ascension, it chronicles the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the efforts of a nascent Church striving to fulfill its divine mission.

According to tradition, Luke is venerated as a martyr, although the exact method of his martyrdom is uncertain. The Coptic Orthodox Church contends that he was beheaded at the behest of Emperor Nero. Others say he preached in Greece, and possibly Gaul, before dying at the age 84 in Boeotia. The poet Dante praised St. Luke as the “historian of the meekness of Christ.” He is the patron of notaries, painters, physicians, sculptors, stained glass workers and surgeons, among many more. Lord God, who chose St. Luke to reveal by his preaching and writings the mystery of your love for the poor, grant that those who already glory in your name may persevere as one and that all nations may merit to see your salvation.

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