Thursday, October 18, 2012

Saint Luke

Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has been identified with St. Paul's "Luke, the beloved physician". He was born in Antioch in Syria, a Greek and a Gentile. Luke's gospel shows special sensitivity to Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles and the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan. Luke was also known to be a doctor. In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor was rich, but scholars have argued that Luke might have been born a slave. Not only do we have Paul's word, but St Jerome, Eusebius and St Irenaeus all refer to Luke as a physician.
We have to go to Acts to follow the trail of Luke's Christian ministry. We are grateful for St Luke who followed St Paul on his missionary journeys and recorded with great detail what St Paul did between 51 until 65 AD. Luke is the loyal comrade who stays with Paul when he is shipwrecked on Malta in 60 AD, and later imprisoned in Rome a year later. And after everyone else deserts Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it is Luke who remains with Paul to the end: "Only Luke is with me," Paul writes to Timothy
Luke's unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the 6 miracles and 18 parables not found in the other gospels. Luke's is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses "Blessed are the poor" instead of "Blessed are the poor in spirit" in the beatitudes. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary=s Magnificat where she proclaims that God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty"
Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus' life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke's gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail Mary full of grace" spoken at the Annunciation and "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus" spoken by her cousin Elizabeth. 

Guercino - "St Luke painting the Blessed Mother"
Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God's mercy.
Reading Luke's gospel gives us a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God's kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God's mercy for everyone. The reports of Luke's life after Paul's death are conflicting. Some early writers claim he was martyred, others say he lived a long life. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. The earliest tradition we have says that he died in 84 AD in Boeotia after settling in Greece to write his Gospel.
A tradition has it that Luke was also a painter, painting various images of the Blessed Mother, including one he did in Malta when he stayed for 3 months with St Paul. Several images of Mary appeared in later centuries claiming him as the artist and because of this tradition, he is considered a patron of painters of pictures and is often portrayed as painting pictures of Mary. He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice B the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world. Being the patron of doctors and surgeons, many hospitals around the world were dedicated to him.

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