Summary: Luke’s writings show the mercy and compassion of Jesus.

Feast of St. Luke 2018

St. Paul had a long and fruitful ministry. He is certainly one of the patron saints of the new evangelization, but St. Luke, our day’s patron, is not far behind. Luke was a gentile who joined Paul on the missionary journey in which for the first time he crossed from Asia Minor to Europe and began his run through Thessaly and Greece. From Luke, we have in the Acts of the Apostles an inspiring and valuable collection of St. Paul stories. And since Luke was Paul’s only companion here as he writes to bishop Timothy in Ephesus, Luke was probably the scribe who penned this epistle at Paul’s dicatation.

St. Paul was surrounded by many disciples, helpers, and–we see here–enemies. It’s sad that in the time before his martyrdom, only St. Luke was with him. Everyone else was going about his own business without Paul. And Paul was still–even in his travail–conscious of the need to send out missionaries and envoys for the faith. He was ever faithful to the mission given by Jesus to him and the other disciples. With him, we need to pray that the Lord of the harvest send out laborers into the vineyard. That’s especially important in this time when the Church is clearly under persecution all over the world. We need religious and priestly vocations, and men and women to heed those calls.

Just a few words about St. Luke. He was probably from Antioch, in Syria, where the pagans first called the disciples of Jesus “Christians.” Luke was Greek, rather than Jewish, and served Paul as both an amanuensis and a physician. He was certainly well educated, both in Greek philosophy and in Jewish and Christian doctrine, history and practice.

Luke did not accompany St. Paul all through his Greek missionary activity, so we can’t think of him as a constant companion. But we need to know that this wonderful author of both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles was one of the strongest believers in Paul’s message. We get a great deal out of comparing his Gospel and the Acts with the other NT writings.

First, Luke, as a Gentile, emphasized that Jesus’s message was not just for Jews. His Gospel is the Gospel of the Gentiles. He gives special light on Jesus’s interaction with Gentiles. In Acts, he points out how both Peter and Paul converted and baptized Gentiles early in Christian history. Before the end of the first century, as a result of this activity and the proclamation of Luke’s Gospel, the Catholic Church had become a primarily Gentile church.

Second, Luke’s Gospel and Acts especially focused on Jesus’s ministry to women. He shows the importance of women both in the life of Christ and in the spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman world. To those who falsely claim that Christianity puts women in second place, we lift up these two books and point out that the Church always recognized the dignity of women, even in a culture that largely treated women as property of men.

But, most importantly, Luke’s writings show the mercy and compassion of Jesus. After all, in the early prayer of old Zechariah, when John the Baptist was born, he extols the “tender compassion of our God.” And he constantly points out Jesus’s forgiveness of sin, and His eagerness to heal all kinds of diseases. From Luke alone we have the parable of the prodigal son and the forgiving Father, every sinner’s favorite story. In our age, when so many condemn and judge anybody who has a different opinion, we certainly need mercy and compassion and forgiveness. So all together, we can say with confidence, St. Luke, pray for us.

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