St. Luke the Evangelist
A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
Once again this Sunday we have a happy coincidence of feasts and readings, as St. Luke’s day falls this year on the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.
St. Luke was a convert to the faith, either Greek, or a Jew who grew up amidst Greek culture, and following his conversion he travelled extensively with St. Paul, so that we hear of him today at the end of Paul second letter to Timothy. Luke gives us the third Gospel, and the Book of Acts, and his writing makes up more than a quarter of the New Testament, more even than his friend and mentor, Paul.
As an author of Scripture, Luke brings a special object and perspective, which he tells us at the beginning of his Gospel: “it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” Luke would have us see clearly the order and pattern of our Lord’s life, and following from that story, he carries on in Acts with a history of that order and goodness working itself out in the first years of the Church. That is why, for instance, Luke’s Gospel ends with Jesus teaching the apostles, ‘opening their understanding’: Luke wants us to see that the story of our salvation is something we can learn and study, something we can know. We receive the message of redemption by faith, which is a kind of trust, but once possessed, faith itself is not blind: we continually grow in our understanding of God’s love for us and the pattern of that love working itself out in our lives. This is one of the great joys of our Christian experience, that as we continue faithful in our devotion to God and His mercies, our mind evolves and grows clearer in our vision of His kingdom. Our knowledge and love are constantly renewed.
So as I said, it is a happy coincidence that Luke’s feast should fall on this Sunday, because in the epistle for Trinity 19 we hear this from Paul, Luke’s friend: “if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” How is this to happen? Study and careful reflection on the Scriptures, which is a labour, not a hobby, is necessary, certainly; but no amount of intellectual effort will produce any fruit, any new depth of spiritual clarity, if we do not also constantly turn to our Lord for His healing mercies. The Church shows us this pattern in our worship: teaching and hearing of the Word is always accompanied with prayer and sacrament, with faith and repentance. And as our faith is renewed in the living water that is God’s forgiveness, so may our vision of His love deepen and grow clearer.
This is born out in a wonderful image in Luke’s own life: Luke was known both as a physician, and as a painter, and in fact thought to be the first to paint a picture, an icon, of our Lord. He knew the power of God to heal, and was obedient to that ministry of healing, and so his spirit was blessed with a vision of the redeeming face of Jesus. May it be so with us.