Today is the feast day of Saint Luke. Ora pro nobis.
It is from St. Paul himself that we learn that St. Luke was a Gentile, for he is not named among those of his helpers whom Paul mentions as Jews [Col. 4:10-11]; that he was a fellow worker with the Apostle; and that he was a medical man, who doubtless had the care of Paul’s much-tried health. But nowhere does St. Paul refer to Luke’s writings. The first time in the history of the mission of St. Paul that Luke speaks in his own name in the first person is when the Apostle sailed from Troas into Macedonia [Acts 16:10]. He is separated by St. Paul from those of the circumcision (Colossians 4:14), and his style proves that he was a Greek.
from the Liturgical Year, 1903
The goodness and kindness of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men (Tit. ii. 11; iii. 4.). It would seem that the third Evangelist, a disciple of St. Paul, had purposed setting forth this word of the Doctor of the Gentiles; or may we not rather say, the Apostle himself characterizes in this sentence the Gospel wherein his disciple portrays the Saviour prepared before the face of all peoples; a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of… Israel (St. Luke ii. 31, 32). St. Luke’s Gospel, and the words quoted from St. Paul, were in fact written about the same time; and it is impossible to say which claims priority.
Under the eye of Simon Peter, to whom the Father had revealed the Christ the Son of the living God, Mark had the honour of giving to the Church the Gospel of Jesus, the Son of God (St. Mark i. 1). Matthew had already drawn up for the Jews the Gospel of the Messias, Son of David, Son of Abraham (St. Matth. i. 1). Afterwards, at the side of Paul, Luke wrote for the Gentiles the Gospel of Jesus, Son of Adam through Mary (St. Luke iii. 38). As far as the genealogy of this First-born of His Mother may be reckoned back, so far shall extend the blessing He bestows upon His brethren, by redeeming them from the curse inherited from their first father.
Jesus was truly one of ourselves, a Man conversing with men and living their life. He was seen on earth in the reign of Augustus; the prefect of the empire registered the birth of this new subject of Caesar in the city of His ancestors. He was bound in the swathing-bands of infancy; like all of His race, He was circumcised, offered to the Lord, and redeemed according to the law of His nation. As a Child He obeyed His parents; He grew up under their eyes; He passed through the progressive development of youth to the maturity of manhood. At every juncture, during His public life, He prostrated in prayer to God the Creator of all; He wept over His country; when His Heart was wrung with anguish at sight of the morrow’s deadly torments, He was bathed with a sweat of blood; and in that agony He did not disdain the assistance of an Angel. Such appears, in the third Gospel, the humanity of God our Saviour.
How sweet too are His grace and goodness! Among all the children of men, He merited to be the expectation of nations and the Desired of them all: He who was conceived of a humble Virgin; Who was born in a stable with shepherds for His court, and choirs of Angels singing in the darkness of night: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill. But earth had sung the prelude to the angelic harmonies; the precursor, leaping with delight in his mother’s womb, had, as the Church says (Vesper Hymn for the Feast of St. John Baptist), made known the king still resting in his bride-chamber. To this joy of the bridegroom’s Friend, the Virgin Mother had responded, by the sweetest song that earth or heaven has ever heard. Then Zachary and Simeon completed the number of inspired Cantioles for the new people of God. All was song aTound the new-born Babe ; and Mary kept all the wcrds in her heart, in order to transmit them to us through her own Evangelist.
The Divine Child grew in age and wisdom and grace, before God and man; till His human beauty captivated men, and drew them with the cords of Adam to the love of God. He was ready to welcome the daughter of Tyre, the Gentile race that had become more than a rival of Sion. Let her not fear, the poor unfortunate one, of whom Magdalene was a figure; the pride of expiring Judaism may take scandal, but Jesus will accept her tears and her perfumes; he will forgive her much because of her great love. Let the prodigal hope once more, when worn out with his long wanderings, in every way whither error has led the nations; the envious complaint of his elder brother Israel will not stay the outpourings of the Sacred Heart, celebrating the return of the fugitive, restoring to him the dignity of sonship, placing again upon his finger the ring of the alliance first contracted in Eden with the whole human race. As for Juda, unhappy is he if he refuse to understand.
Woe to the rich man, who in his opulence neglects the poor Lazarus! The privileges of race no longer exist: of ten lepers cured in body, the stranger alone is healed in soul, because he alone believes in his deliverer and returns thanks. Of the Samaritan, the levite, and the priest, who appear on the road to Jericho, the first alone earns our Saviour’s commendation. The pharisee is strangely mistaken, when, in his arrogant prayer, he spurns the publican, who strikes his breast and cries for mercy. The Son of Man neither hears the prayers of the proud, nor heeds their indignation; He invites Himself, in spite of their murmurs, to the house of Zacheus, bringing with him salvation and joy, and declaring the publican to be henceforth a true son of Abraham. So much goodness and such universal mercy close against Him the narrow hearts of his fellow-citizens; they will not have him to reign over them; but eternal Wisdom finds the lost coin, and there is great joy before the Angels in heaven. On the day of the sacred Nuptials, the lowly and despised, and the repentant sinners, will sit down to the banquet prepared for others. In truth I say to you, there were many widows in the days of Elias in Israel, . . . and to none of them was Elias sent, but to Sarepta of Sidon, to a widow woman. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian (St. Luke iv. 25-27).
O Jesus, Thy Evangelist has won our hearts. “We love thee for having taken pity on our misery. We Gentiles were in deeper debt than Jerusalem, and therefore we owe thee greater love in return for thy pardon. We love thee because Thy choicest graces are for Magdalene, that is, for us who are sinners, and are nevertheless called to the better part. We love Thee because thou canst not resist the tears of mothers; but restorest to them, as at Naim, their dead children. In the day of treason, and abandonment, and denial, thou didst forget Thine own injury to cast upon Peter that loving look, which caused him to weep bitterly. Thou turnedst away from Thyself the tears of those humble and true daughters of Jerusalem, who followed thy painful footsteps up the heights of Calvary. Nailed to the Cross, thou didst implore pardon for Thy executioners. At the last hour, as God thou promisedst Paradise to the penitent thief, as Man thou gavest back Thy soul to Thy Father. Truly from beginning to end of this third Gospel appears thy goodness and kindness, O God our Saviour!
St. Luke completed his work by writing, in the same correct style as his Gospel, the history of the first days of Christianity, of the introduction of the Gentiles into the Church, and of the great labours of their own Apostle Paul. According to tradition he was an artist, as well as a man of letters; and with a soul alive to all the most delicate inspirations, he consecrated his pencil to the holiest use, and handed down to us the features of the Mother of God. It was an illustration worthy of the Gospel which relates the Divine Infancy; and it won for the artist a new title to the gratitude of those who never saw Jesus and Mary in the flesh. Hence St. Luke is the patron of Christian art; and also of the medical profession, for in the holy Scripture itself he is said to have been a physician, as we shall see from the Breviary Lessons. He had studied all the sciences in his native city Antioch; and the brilliant capital of the East had reason to be proud of its illustrious son. (1)
After St. Paul’s death, St. Luke left Rome. There are conflicting reports about where he went. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. He wrote his Gospel with the aim of attracting the Gentiles to the goodness and mercy of the Lord. A little later he wrote the Acts of the Apostles.
He died without shedding his blood, but the Church honored him with the title of martyr for the long sufferings and mortifications he endured for the cause of the Gospel.
Prayer to St. Luke
Antiphon: Be couragious in battle, and fight with the old Serpent, and you shall receive an everlasting Kingdom. Alleluia.
Vers. They proclaimed the works of God.
Resp. And understood his deeds.
Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.
(St. Luke xviii. 38; Indulgence 100 days)
Image: Luke the Evangelist, miniature from the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany, Queen consort of France (1477-1514). Artist: Jean Bourdichon 1457-1521. (7)
Research by REGINA Staff