18 October 2011

Saint Luke: faithful to the gospel, faithful in mission and ministry

Saint Luke … traditional image in a modern stained-glass window in Saint Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral in Orlando, Florida (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Luke the Evangelist (18 October 2011):

8.30 a.m., The Eucharist

Isaiah 35: 3-6 or Acts 16: 6-12a; Psalm 147: 1-7; II Timothy 4: 5-17; Luke 10: 1-9.

May I speak to you in the name of + the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

This morning, we recall and give thanks for Saint Luke (Λουκάς) the Evangelist, the author of the Third Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles.

Saint Luke is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, including the Epistle to Philemon (verse 24), Colossians 4: 14 and II Timothy 4: 11. He is known as the “glorious physician,” and – especially in the Eastern Church – as an icon writer.

It is said that Saint Luke was born in Antioch in Syria (now in Turkey) to Greek-speaking parents. As a physician, he was said to have had a skill for healing, but left this behind around the year 50 AD and joined Saint Paul after they met in Antioch.

Later traditions claimed Saint Luke was one of the Seventy, mentioned in our Gospel reading, that he was one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, or even that he was closely related to the Apostle Paul. But Saint Luke, in his own statement at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostle, tells us he was not an eyewitness to the events of the Gospel.

Yet, both the Gospel according to Saint Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are detailed in history, expression, and narration that are often thought to outshine other Christian literary works. Both are held in regard by Biblical historians and archaeologists for their historical accuracy and trustworthiness.

He may have accompanied Saint Paul on his missionary journeys before staying on in Troas (Troy) after Saint Paul’s departure. Tradition says he died “in Thebes, the capital of Boeotia” at the age of 84.

I wonder whether any of the Third Year students who are here this week find the Gospel reading this morning (Luke 10: 1-9) has any resonances with your deacon internships: “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 (verses 3-4).”

Or, as you gain experience – and at time heart-breaking experiences – of pastoral and hospital visits, do you wish you could call on the healing abilities and skills of Luke the Physician?

Or, as you are challenged by the ways of the world, do you wonder how – like Luke the Gospel writer and Luke the Iconographer – you can present the world with meaningful and accessible accounts and images of who Christ is?

Or, is Saint Luke the early missionary an inspiration for you, with his accounts of the missionary work of the early Church?

Without Saint Luke, it would be impossible to imagine how we could know about the earliest missionary endeavours of Saint Paul and the Apostolic Church.

And so I hope in your ministry and mission you find Saint Luke an attractive and interesting Biblical figure ... as an evangelist, as someone who gives healing a proper place in his ministry, as someone who is faithful to Saint Paul in his ministry, as someone who, in all his travels and travails, remains faithful to the ministry he is charged with.

And so may all we think, say and do be to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.


Almighty God,
you called Luke the physician,
whose praise is in the gospel,
to be an evangelist and physician of the soul:
By the grace of the Spirit
and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel,
give your Church the same love and power to heal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Living God,
may we who have shared these holy mysteries
enjoy health of body and mind
and witness faithfully to your gospel,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This reflection was shared at the Eucharist in the institute chapel on Saint Luke’s Day, 18 October 2011.

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