18 Oct, Tuesday, Feast of St Luke, Evangelist
2 Tim 4:10-17. From prison Paul sends greetings to various missionary friends, and mentions that Luke alone is with him at this time
Lk 10:1-9. Jesus sends out seventy missionary disciples, with spiritual and material guidance on how to carry out their Gospel mission
Scribe of the Gentleness of Christ
The third Gospel has been attributed with Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14; cf. 2 Tim. 4:11, Philem. 24), who was a frequent companion of St Paul on his journeys, if we may trust the “We-passages” in the Acts (e.g. 16:11 “we set out”). The main difficulty with this is that some specifically Pauline ideas are either missing or not significantly present in the writings of Luke. In particular, he is not so insistent as Paul on the centrality of the death of Christ, and his ideas on Law and eschatology seem to diverge from those of the Apostle. However, if Luke’s Gospel can be dated about the year 80 A.D., that may explain why his theology has 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 was said about him in the second-century.
Luke sets out to establish the reliability of the faith, by linking it back to the apostolic age. Continuity of development – from the Old Testament to the era of Jesus, and through to the era of the church – is an important part of his message. As his preface (Lk 1:1-4) follows the pattern of Greek historiography, Luke’s is often considered the most formally “historical” of the four Gospels. However, his sources were not limited to the strictly historical and verifiable eye-witness accounts, – for like the other Evangelists he was dependent on materials already formed within the ferment of the early Christian preaching tradition, and since he tells the story of Jesus in order to spread the faith, we should not designate Luke as a detached, academic historian, but rather as an historical theologian.
Like Matthew, he puts a literary structure upon the Jesus stories at his disposal, dividing his work into periods to show God’s plan of salvation unfolding in world history. His genealogy of Jesus (Lk 3:23-38) goes back, not just to Abraham (as in Mt 1:1-18), but to Adam and the origins of humanity. Very effectively he shows Jesus at work as the Saviour of the world; then he illustrates the church in its mission (Acts) as continuing this, under the Holy Spirit’s influence, according to God’s plan.
Luke’s literary style shows a flexible syntax, and a vocabulary like that of the Septuagint Greek of the Old Testament, the translation that was made for Greek-speaking Jews. 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.
Luke paints a consistent portrait of Jesus as one 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.
He is especially concerned to underline the role of Jesus as saviour of sinners, the poor and the needy. It is to Luke, also, that we owe the transmission of 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.”
By the time Luke wrote his gospel, the early church was no longer obsessed with the proximate return of Jesus in glory. The urgency of waiting for the Day of the Lord was no longer directed to a once-for-all coming of Jesus in glory to end the present condition of the world and usher in the everlasting kingdom. As with the Our Father, Luke thinks of the daily presence of the Lord Jesus in our neighbour and in contemporary events. We must be waiting, always ready to open the door of our heart, and of our possessions, should Jesus come even at midnight or before sunrise. Whatever happens anytime, anywhere, must be received as though Jesus were present in person, here and now.
First Reading: 2 Timothy 4:10-17
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.
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.’