18 October. Saint Luke, Evangelist

1st Reading: 2 Timothy 4:10-17

Only Luke is with Paul, at this final stage in his imprisonment

Dear Timothy, Do your best to come to me soon, for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds. You also must beware of him, for he strongly opposed our message.

At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

Gospel: Luke 10:1-9.

The Lord chose 70 others and sent them ahead of him in pairs

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’


The beloved physician

We celebrate the amiable Saint Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14 and 11; cf. 2 Tim. 4:11, Philem. 24) and Paul’s companion on his journeys, as implied by the “We”-passages in the Acts (e.g. “we set out” 16:11 etc.). It is true that some key Pauline ideas are absent in the Gospel of Luke, but if the Gospel can be dated to the 80’s A.D., his theology would have evolved to meet the changing conditions of Christian life, almost two decades after Paul’s martyrdom. Although he is most welcoming to Christians of Gentile background, Luke himself was probably a Jew of the Diaspora, and possibly from Antioch, as the second-century tradition says about him.

Luke has a fine literary style, illustrated by the hymns with which he punctuates chapters 1 and 2 (the “Magnificat” of Mary, Zechariah’s “Benedictus,” and the Nunc Dimittis of old Simeon appear to be modelled on the language of the Septuagint. With them he has beautifully crafted the story of a major transition from the age of the Old Testament to that of the New. John the Baptist appears both as the heir of the prophets and as heralding in something new. The manner of his birth to Elizabeth recalls the birth of Samuel to the aged Anna. And then, the material about John the Baptist is shown as leading up to Jesus. When Mary visits Elizabeth, Jesus’ superiority to John is already established. His Davidic origin is superior to John’s priestly origin.

He paints a consistent portrait of Jesus as Lord and yet humble servant of the Father, to be admired and imitated. We learn the importance of piety and prayer, of love and compassion for the poor and the despised, as shown in Jesus’ attitude toward outsiders, towards women, children, and sinners. During his crucifixion, the assurance that one of the two robbers crucified along withe Jesus would be with him in Paradise, and his final words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” continue this Lucan pattern, in sharp contrast to the darkness of Mark’s Passion account.
It is to Luke that we owe several of the best-loved parables (the good Samaritan, the lost coin, and the prodigal son,) all marked with a special quality of mercy and tenderness. These go some way to explain Dante Alighieri’s famous description of Luke as the “Scribe of the gentleness of Christ.”

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