The Feast of St. Luke is October 18th. If you’re beginning to read the New Testament Luke’s Gospel is a good place to start. His gospel is the longest of the gospels, followed by the Acts of the Apostles. Together they present a magnificent picture of the life of Jesus followed by the life of his church.
Luke’s gospel provides many of readings for the various liturgical feasts we celebrate yearly in the church; most of the stories of Jesus’ early life recalled during the Christmas season, for example, are from Luke.
Luke takes over into his gospel about 65% of Mark’s Gospel, which he modifies for his own purposes. He shares with Matthew’s Gospel material from another source, and he also offers material not found in the other gospels–the infancy narratives, for example. (Luke 1-2). He must be the companion St.Paul mentions in his letter to Timothy, read in today’s Mass. “Luke is the only one with me.” (2 Tim 4: 10 ff) He narratives Paul’s missionary journey in Acts.
Like other evangelists, Luke has his own plan. In his commentary on Luke’s gospel Luke Timothy Johnson speaks of the way Luke’s positive outlook on the world influences his writings:
“Luke-Acts is positive toward the world, not only as God’s creation but also as the arena of history and human activity. It is perhaps the least apocalyptic of the NT writings, and the least sectarian. Not only is Luke relatively unconcerned about the end time, his historical narrative bestows value on time itself. Luke is also generally approving of those outside the Christian movement. Outsiders-not counting the Jewish opponents who are not outsiders at all– are generally regarded as reasonable and open-minded, which is a high compliment paid by apologetic literature.” (The Gospel of Luke, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Md. 1991)
Carry the cross with me each day, Jesus says, and don’t worry or be anxious. Be vigilant and prayerful each day, the Lord will return on the clouds of heaven. No, we don’t know the day or the hour, but we’ll we ready for the last day if we prepare each day for our redemption. Jesus says we can stand strong and fearless on that day, if we live each day well in the meantime. Be especially mindful of the poor. That’s what Luke emphasizes in his writings.
Isn’t that good advice for times like ours when enormous problems confront our world and clear solutions and grand designs are nowhere to be found? We can so easily fall into pessimism (a form of spiritual sleep) and lose hope. We can also turn away from the poor.
We can use Luke’s optimism today.
Luke gave us a prescription for Life.
Luke’s Gospel is a tonic for our times.
How sorely we need hopeful views.
How easily we slump into despair.
A tonic for us is the Gospel Good News.