Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist
Today we thank and praise God for His servant, Saint Luke, a companion and fellow-worker of Paul, was a Gentile by birth and a physician by vocation (see Col. 4:14). We first meet St. Luke during St. Paul’s second missionary journey. His witness to our Lord Jesus Christ is found in his two books, the Acts of the Apostles and the Third Gospel.
On this day therefore we pray:
Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Factual knowledge about Luke is somewhat sketchy. He was neither a disciple nor apostle in the strict sense of the terms. One tradition states that he was born in Antioch and was converted to Christianity at an early age. He tells us himself that he gained his knowledge of Jesus’ earthly life and career by interviewing eyewitnesses rather than from first hand knowledge. St. Paul refers to him as the “beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14. From the “we” passages in Acts, we infer that he must have traveled with Paul on at least some of his missionary journeys. He is the author both of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Little knowledge is available on his career after writing Acts, although one tradition says be preached in Bithynia and lived to the age of 84. October 18 is celebrated in his honor, and since it is the same in all calendars may be the traditional date of his death. The Introit, common to the celebration of all the Evangelists, tells the importance of relying on Christ Whose power working through us can make us effective. In consideration of His mighty deeds in our behalf and of the privilege we have in serving Him, we praise Him. The Collect leads us to pray that we might share Luke’s privileged task of teaching the Gospel for the salvation of many. The Gradual speaks of the blessings of those who fear God and rejoice in His Word. The Verse bridges the Epistle and Gospel by proclaiming our willingness to teach others of God’s salvation. The Proper Preface for Apostles and Evangelists thanks God for so governing the Church that the doctrine of the Apostles and Evangelists has been preserved for us today.
Lessons for the Day
2 Timothy 4:5-15
The Psalm picks up the idea of healing appropriate to St. Luke and praises God for His goodness to His people. There really is no reason to abbreviate the Psalm as indicated as the remainder also speaks in terms appropriate for the celebration of him through whom the Gospel was given. The Old Testament selection speaks of the joys to come when the Lord delivers Zion; again, the concept of healing is prominent. In the Epistle, St, Paul appeals to Timothy to come as soon as he can, and mentions that faithful Luke remains with him in his imprisonment. The Gospel is the account of the sending out of the seventy by Jesus. There is an ancient tradition that Luke was among them although there is no hard evidence to back it up. In our Lord’s charge to these seventy, we again find mention of healing. A common thread among these lessons is the idea of healing, a theme that spiritualizes Luke’s occupation, but certainly is in line with the concept of spiritual healing through the Gospel.
One commentator writes: “In St. Luke’s Gospel our Savior is pictured as the merciful Physician of bodily and spiritual ills. It has, therefore, been called ‘the Gospel of mercy and love.’ The beautiful passages of God’s loving-kindness touch us deeply, for example the parables of the prodigal son and the Good Samaritan, the account of the penitent woman, and the good thief on the cross. Of inestimable value are the first two chapters on the incarnation and childhood of Jesus. Here Luke preserved for us the three precious canticles…the Benedictus, the Magnificant, and the Nunc Dimittis” (Pius Parsch, The Church’s Year of Grace, Vol. 5, Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1958, p. 295).
It is no wonder that of the many possible ways to celebrate the life and work of St. Luke the Evangelist, to the glory of God and for the welfare of His people, many congregations use this day to focus on the love and the healing power of Christ.
Some congregations have used this opportunity to identify health care personnel in their midst–dentists, nutritionists, nurses, counselors, physical therapists, doctors, and the like–and arranged a special dedication of them to the task of healing in the name of the Christ who healed and heals even today. Others have used this as an opportunity to explore more fully the healing miracles of Jesus and their applications today. Some pastors, utilizing Bible classes and their sermon on this day, have helped their members understand that the redemption of Christ frees us from bondage to sin, death, Satan, and sickness. Christ’s redemption is wholistic in nature and total in effect.
Among the many possible ways to celebrate the life and work of St. Luke the Evangelist, to the glory of God and for the welfare of His people, we praise God for the physician St. Luke who witnesses to the salvation of the Christ, “A light to reveal Your way to the Gentiles, and bring glory to Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).
For that beloved physician
All praise, whose Gospel shows
The healer of the nations,
The One who shares our woes.
Your wine and oil, O Savior,
Upon our spirits pour,
And with true balm of Gilead
Anoint us evermore.
Horatio Bolton Nelson, 1823-1913
Lutheran Worship 194:19