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St Luke

Hari OM
Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.

It was the feast of St Luke on the 18th October. Given his is one of the gospels chosen to be included in the New Testament, Luke is a major figure of Christianity.

Luke is also attributed with authorship of the Acts of the Apostles and has been identified as St. Paul's "Luke, the beloved physician"  in Colossians (4:14). It is believed that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. In Colossians, Paul speaks of those friends who are with him. He first mentions all those "of the circumcision" (i.e. Jews) and he does not include Luke in this group. Other facts about Luke's life come from scripture and from early Church historians.

Luke's gospel has a particular leaning to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan. It is important to the purpose of Christ that the message of living life differently was universal, and Luke bears witness to this.

According to an early history, Eusebius Luke was born at Antioch in Syria. In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor was rich, but it has been suggested that Luke may have been born a slave. It was not uncommon for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician. Not only do we have Paul's word, but Saint Jerome, Saint Irenaeus and Caius, a second-century writer, all refer to Luke as a physician.

We have to go to Acts to follow the trail of Luke's Christian ministry. We know nothing about his conversion but looking at the language of Acts we can see where he joined Saint Paul. The story of the Acts is written in the third person, as an historian recording facts, up until the sixteenth chapter. In Acts 16:8-9 we hear of Paul's company "So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.'" Then suddenly in 16:10 "they" becomes "we": "When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them." This appears to point to Luke first joining Paul's company at Troas at about the year 51 and accompanying him into Macedonia, Samothrace, Neapolis, and finally Philippi. Luke again switches back to the third person from there, which seems to indicate he was not thrown into prison with Paul and that when Paul left Philippi Luke stayed behind to encourage the Church there. Seven years passed before Paul returned to the area on his third missionary journey. In Acts 20:5, the switch to "we" tells us that Luke has left Philippi to rejoin Paul. They traveled together through Miletus, Tyre, Caesarea, to Jerusalem.

Luke is the loyal comrade who stays with Paul when he is imprisoned in Rome about the year 61: and, after everyone else deserts Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it is Luke who remains with Paul to the end: "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11).

Luke's inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with Paul and his companions as he explains in his introduction to the Gospel: "Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus" (Luke 1:1-3). This opening is very important as it indicates the need for individual intellectual investigation; a rigorous analysis of the matter and coming to a conclusion. For Luke, the Truth of the Message of Christ and His Life were sufficiently convincing for him to commit ink to parchment. All disciples of any philosophy must do this 'vichaara', in-depth study. It is equally important to recognise from this that Luke himself was never present among the immediate disciples of Yeshu. He is working purely off the teachings of Paul and his own researches. Teaching lineage - 'paraampara' - is thus indicated.

Luke's is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses "Blessed are the poor" instead of "Blessed are the poor in spirit" in the beatitudes. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary 's Magnificat where she proclaims that God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" (Luke 1:52-53).

Luke also has a special connection with the women in Yeshu's life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke's gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Yeshu's disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail Mary full of grace" spoken at the Annunciation and "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb " spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Yeshu's feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's gospel, we find the message of God's mercy to those who recognise their sins and seek to make appropriate changes to not sin again.

Luke's gospel gives a good idea of one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God's kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God's mercy for everyone.

Beyond the connection with Paul, we know very little of Luke's life and even less of his death. Luke is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons, and is considered also the patron of artists, oftentimes being portrayed himself in the pose of painter.

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