Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

Acts 1:1-8; Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 96

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Luke, the beloved physician and companion of St. Paul, addressed both the Gospel bearing his name and the Acts of the Apostles to an unknown Christian by the name of Theophilus. While many biblical scholars believe Theophilus to be a wealthy and respected Roman patron, some suggest that, given the catechetical nature of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts, it is likely that Theophilus, a name which means “lover of God”, is but a symbolic name and therefore suggest that Luke’s intended audience is actually all lovers of God seeking healing, life, and immortality in the Words and the Wounds of the Divine subject of his work, Jesus Christ, who is at once the very Medicine of Immortality and the Great Physician of both body and soul.

As it is, the combined works of St. Luke that are his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles constitute more than one-third of the New Testament. Thus, it should not be surprising that many of the most beloved stories and accounts in the New Testament come to us by the hand of St. Luke. Some of these beloved stories include The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal son, The Rich Man and Lazarus, and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. A common theme amongst these accounts is the paradoxical nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Only sinners can be forgiven. Only the lost can be found. Only the dead can be raised. Indeed, though the Medicine of Immortality that is the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ is available to everyone, absolutely free, by grace alone, nevertheless, there will be those who deny that they are sin-sick unto death and thus will not receive it, be healed, and live.

For, the truth is, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not received well by the world. It is resented. It divides people. It instills hatred and violence. It brings out the true colors of people – both those who repent and those who reject the preaching of the Gospel. This truth is illustrated in the life of St. Luke Himself, for tradition tells us that Luke was sent out by Jesus as one of the seventy-two preachers of the Good News and that he repeatedly suffered for the faith along with St. Paul. Indeed, Paul Himself says: “Luke alone is with me” – even as many abandoned Paul in his own suffering for Christ and the Gospel. And yet still, preachers are sent, the Gospel is proclaimed, and sinners repent and receive the Good News of the forgiveness of their sins. As so it is that, as the Prophet has proclaimed, beautiful are the feet of those who bring the Good News.

And, the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke is filled with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Perhaps Luke’s most beloved account is his telling of the Nativity of Our Lord. It is from St. Luke’s hand that we receive the stories of the Annunciation, the Visitation, the birth of Jesus, and of the shepherds quaking in fear at the angel’s announcement. And, from the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel the Church has received four great canticles (songs) of faith: The Gloria in Excelsis, the Magnificat of Mary, the Benedictus of Zechariah, and the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon.

Additionally, a little known eastern tradition also claims that St. Luke was the first iconographer of the early Christian Church. That is to say that St. Luke was the first to write (or to paint) an icon of Our Lord Jesus and His Virgin Mother Mary, the Theotokos (God-bearer). Indeed, icons of St. Luke often portray him writing this first icon of our Lord. But also, St. Luke is depicted in iconography and in ecclesial art as a sacrificial ox or bull. This is because St. Luke’s Gospel so vividly portrays our Jesus as the atoning, sacrificial Lamb of God whose self-offering has taken away the sin of the world.

And so, on this Feast Day of St. Luke, we give thanks to God for the example of faith displayed in the beloved physician, learned scholar, gifted artist, and faithful preacher of the Good News who was chosen by our Holy God to reveal to us His Son that we might be turned from our sin in repentance and receive the Medicine of Immortality in the Words and Wounds of Jesus and then glorify God by sharing His love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness with others that they too might be healed and live and glorify God.

Therefore, let us pray with the Church of Christ of all times and in all places: Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called St. Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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