Tuesday, October 18, 2016

According to Luke

Today the Church celebrates the Evangelist Saint Luke, author of the gospel that has been given his name and of the Acts of the Apostles (the Gospel of Luke's second volume, so to speak, which continues the story through the early years of the Apostolic Church and its expansion from Jerusalem to Rome). Thirty-plus years ago, I was told - based on a personality test that was highly fashionable at that time - that my favorite Gospel should be Luke. And so in fact it is! Of course, I value and venerate all four gospels, but if I were to pick a personal favorite it would indeed be Luke. 

According to tradition, Luke was a physician, possibly also an artist, who wrote in the manner of an historian. Old age and the infirmities that accompany it have caused me to come to know many doctors, and I have to say that most of them are eminently good people. But the medical profession per se has never been one to which I felt particularly attracted. I do sort of admire artists, but mainly for possessing and successfully using talents which I lack. I don't otherwise identify with artists, and I am for the most part uninterested in contemporary art. Historians, on the other hand, I feel very attracted to - perhaps because I have read and loved history since my childhood and have felt liberated by it in the face of a less than perfect present.

Of course, more important than any of those markers is the fact that Luke was - most likely - a Gentile. Hence his intense interest in the mission to the Gentiles and in evangelization broadly speaking. That is what gives his Gospel - and Acts maybe even more so - their excitingly expansive feel. All four Gospels proclaim good news, of course. In addition, Matthew importantly highlights the Church, and Mark highlights the demands of discipleship.  But I especially like how Luke highlights how that good news - of healing and salvation - is for all and can change the world. Not for nothing was a popular 1990s children's book about the Acts of the Apostles attractively titled Good News Travels Fast.

Luke's gospel ends with Jesus' disciples continually in the Temple blessing God, and Acts ends with Paul in rome welcoming all, proclaiming the Kingdom, and teaching about Jesus with boldness. Happy endings both!

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