Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist
Today is the feast day of Saint Luke the Evangelist. He is responsible for writing the Gospel of Luke and also the Acts of the Apostles, sometimes collectively referred to as Luke-Acts! He was a physician, and painter (believed to have painted a portrait of Mary, the Mother of God, and Saints Peter and Paul), who, though not personally an eye-witness to Christ and, as such, not an Apostle or one of the 72 disciples, faithfully and diligently wrote down what the Apostles themselves passed on to him, including details which employed technical medical terms, terms which the other evangelists did not use but which influenced St. Paul himself. It is also commonly believed that he carefully preserved for us the details of the Annunciation, the Nativity and what we know of Christ’s early years by gathering that information from the Blessed Mother herself. The three beloved canticles the Church prays every day in the Liturgy of the Hours–those of Zechariah (the Benedictus), Our Lady (the Magnificat) and Simeon (the Nunc Dimittis)–are found in his Gospel as well. It is understood that he hailed from Antioch in Syria, and is considered to be a spiritual son, and coworker, of St. Paul, who mentions him as “Luke the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14. He is also referred to in Philemon 24 and 2 Timothy 4:11.
In his writing, Saint Luke was most solicitous of the poor and the disenfranchised and all those who depend on God. In fact, Saint Luke writes about God’s mercy so much that his Gospel is often called “The Gospel of Mercy”. He stresses God’s mercy in the cures that Jesus effects, in Christ’s directive to “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (cf Luke 6:36), and in the parables of mercy found throughout his writing: The Two Debtors and their Creditor (Luke 7:36-50), the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin (Luke 15:1-10), The Merciful Father–also known as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-23), The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), The Unjust Judge and the Widow–our Gospel reading this past Sunday (Luke 18:1-8), and The Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14).
Saint Luke is represented by a bull or ox, which we see in the painting above, because his Gospel begins with the priesthood of Zachary (the father of St. John the Baptist), who was responsible for offering sacrifice in the temple, where oxen were one of the chief offerings. Saint Luke is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons; artists, sculptors and painters; butchers and many others. It is said he never married. He is believed to have died around the year 84 A.D. Most sources indicate he was martyred.
Art: Saint Luke the Evangelist (shown with his traditional symbol at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Steinauer, Nebraska, USA), Corbert Gauthier, 2013, copyright, all rights reserved, used with permission.