Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Saint Luke (20th Sunday after Pentecost)—18 October AD 2009
Saint Luke Writing His Gospel
Andrea Mantegna 1431-1506

 Ordinary of the Mass
English Mass Text
Latin Mass Text

“The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”[1]

    Saint Luke, the author of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, was born in Syrian Antioch, one of the capitals and intellectual centers of the ancient world—today located just a few miles in from the Mediterranean at the southern end of modern Turkey.  By profession Luke was a physician;  by avocation he was an artist, who may have painted a picture of the Blessed Virgin;  and is best known for his detailed historical writings of the life of Christ and the spread of early Christianity.

    We are not sure whether or not Luke was a convert to Christianity from Judaism.  Saint Paul seems to exclude him from those “who are of the circumcision,”[2] but there were large numbers of Jews in Antioch, and Luke seems to have been very familiar with the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Jewish Old Testament.  Christianity came to Antioch with converts from Judaism who fled Jerusalem to avoid the persecution that started with the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, and later through the efforts of Saints Saul and Barnabas, and ultimately those of Saint Peter.  It was at Antioch that the followers of Christ were first called “Christians.”[3]  We don’t know whether Paul and Luke were previously acquainted, but they meet (in the 16th chapter of Acts) in the city of Troas on the Hellespont (today called the Dardanelles).[4]

    It appears that Luke had written his Gospel prior to his association with Saint Paul, and it is clear that he did so as an historian rather than as an eye witness.[5]  His narrative concerning the Annunciation, Visitation, the Nativity of our Lord, and His early life provides details not found in any of the other Gospels, and does suggest that he obtained these details from the Blessed Virgin herself.  Of the four Gospel writers, Luke is identified by the symbol of an ox, the animal offered in sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem, to which he devotes a goodly number of words.  The good Samaritan, the lilies of the field, the Pharisee and the publican, are among the details of our Lord’s mission that are found only in Saint Luke’s Gospel.

    In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke identifies himself as the author of the Gospel bearing his name—both books are dedicated to one named “Theophilus.”[6]  Those sections of the Acts where Luke was personally associated with Saint Paul are written in the first person—“he did this” or “they did that” changes to “we did this,” and “we did that.”[7]  Clearly, Luke shared many of the difficulties of the Apostolate with Saint Paul, being with him for at least some of the riots, and shipwrecks, and long perilous journeys which you have heard me refer to as “Saint Paul’s adventure story.”[8]  He accompanied Paul on his final journey to Rome, but, for some reason, cut short his writing before Saints Peter and Paul faced martyrdom at the hands of the Emperor Nero.  Yet, we have Paul’s word that Saint Luke remained steadfastly with him at Rome up until the end, even though others had deserted.[9]

    Tradition has it that Saint Luke preached in Dalmatia, Galatia, Italy, and Macedonia;  that he never married;  and that he died at the age of eighty-four in Bœotia, was buried at Achia (both cities in the Greek Isles), and that his relics were later brought by Constantine to his new imperial city.  It is disputed whether or not he died a martyr, but no one questions that his life was an heroic gift to those who would be brought by his efforts to the Catholic Faith.

    Now, so far, this has been a history lesson about a wonderful saint.  But sermons are supposed to exhort people to do good things.  We can do this by considering the more outstanding characteristics of Saint Luke, and seeing if we can imitate them in our own lives.

    Saint Luke was a physician.  While most of us cannot practice medicine, we certainly can imitate him in the performance of the corporal works of mercy.  Our Lord urges us to look after the physical needs of the “least of His brethren”: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the prisoner, the naked, and the sick—and He tells us that if we don’t do so for the very lowly it will be as though we had refused to tend the needs of Jesus Christ Himself.[10]  Saint Luke was not afraid to get his hands dirty to help those in need, nor should we be.

    Saint Luke lived the life of the Apostles, very much like his companion Paul did.  He certainly could have lived a more comfortable life is he had just remained in Antioch and practiced medicine.  Instead, he through in his lot with Saint Paul—with Jesus Christ, really—working tirelessly to promote our Lord’s mission, in spite of heat and cold and rain, in spite of riot and shipwreck.  Perhaps we are called to a similar partnership, joining up with Jesus Christ, in spite of adversities, to promote His mission in our modern world, as Saint Luke did in the ancient world.

    Saint Luke was a disciple of truth.  Christ, of course, is “the Truth, as well as the Life and the Way, and no one comes to the Father but through Him.”[11]  And Saint Luke was methodical in discovering and setting down the truths about Jesus Christ.  Indeed, this thirst for truth may be Luke’s most important attribute.  If we do not know the truth, we do not know where we are going.  All of the effort in the world will be misdirected if it is not guided by truth.  The quintessential fallacy of the modern age—both religious and civil—is that truth is relative, that it is unfixed, that it is flexible, rather than being anchored in the solid rock of the being of Almighty God.  Together with Saint Luke, together with Jesus Christ, we too must be disciples of the truth.

    Saint Luke is symbolized by an ox, the symbol of sacrifice, a symbol of steadfast labor, and perhaps a symbol of stubbornness.  If we are to learn anything at all from our Saint, we must not fail to emulate him in all of these.

“The kingdom of God is at hand for you.”


[1]   Gospel:  Luke x: 1-9

[2]   Colossians iv: 11.

[7]   «The "we" begins at Acts 16:10, and continues to 16:17 (the action is at Philippi). It reappears at 20:5 (Philippi), and continues to 21:18 (Jerusalem). It reappears again at the departure for Rome, 27:1 (Greek text), and continues to the end of the book.» 
    Catholic Encyclopedia
s.v. “Gospel of Saint Luke”

[8]   2 Corinthians 11 & 12. &

[9]   2 Timothy iv: 9-11.

[10]   Matthew xxv: 31-46.


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