|Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist
Second Timothy 4:9-17
Psalms 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18
How do we “catch” faith? I think my sense of a God, in whom I can trust, goes back to my mother tucking me into bed as a child and teaching me to thank God and to pray for those in need. Other mediators of faith were the parish community at Mass, the parish priests, the sisters who taught me catechism and how to make a sentence, and some other adults who somehow impressed me with their God-driven generosity and buoyant hope. But beyond all those obvious mediators of the faith stand some enormously gifted individuals deep in the past of our community of faith. Saint Luke, for example—the saint we celebrate today.
Though Luke wasn’t an apostle, the reading from 2 Timothy reminds us that he was there from the very early days of the Church. He sometimes accompanied Paul, and even “did time” with him in prison (see the end of the letter to Philemon as well). Most important of all, he told the story of Jesus in a way that has left its imprint on the faith of all Christians ever since. Read the first four verses of his Gospel. There he tells us exactly what he was about. He thought it was time to re-tell the story of Jesus for his own time and place. The original eyewitnesses had begun to die, and it looked as if the Church was going to be a round for a while. And it was important to make sense of the fact that God’s plan seemed to be that a mainly Gentile church was meant to carry on the mission of the Jewish Messiah. So he told the story in two volumes. Volume one retold the story of Jesus featuring Jesus as a prophet-like-Moses continuing God’s relationship with Israel, and folding in a lot of parables that didn’t make it into previous Gospels. For example, it is thanks to Luke’s Gospel that we know the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.
Luke’s special stroke of genius and inspiration was to add a sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. The conventional order of printed New Testaments places the Acts after the Gospel of John. This was a sensible move in itself, keeping the four Gospels together, and then moving on to the story of the Church. But an unfortunate side effect of that choice was to separate forever the two parts of Luke’s masterpiece. He obviously wanted his readers to read his story of the Church right after the story of Jesus. And he wrote them in a way that stresses the continuity between the two. For example, he stresses that the same Holy Spirit that energized Jesus’ mission also enlivens and directs the life and mission of the Jesus People, the Church. He wanted us to read those episodes of the early Church as “baby pictures” that can help us understand who we are as a Church today, still trying to respond to the same Spirit and carrying on the preaching and healing work of Jesus.
Maybe the best way to celebrate St. Luke’s Day is to start reading
his Gospel from the beginning, and then continuing right on through the
sequel, Acts. Do it for about 15 or 20 minutes a day, as you might
work your way through a short novel during a busy schedule. You’ll
discover how much Luke is a mediator of our faith. His two-part masterpiece
tells us who we are as a Church still following Jesus in our midst.
In Luke’s story of Jesus and the Church, we find our own story.
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