Today is the feast of St. Luke the evangelist. He was a friend and companion of St. Paul and is best known for having been a Gentile Christian. Tradition has him as being a native of Antioch and a physician. His two sections of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, were written between 40 and 55 years after the death of Jesus.
When we think of the four gospels, we associate them with writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But the names were not associated with the various bodies of work until almost 100 years after the last one was written. Rather than associate these names as those of the authors we should think of them more as schools of thought, or communities of teachings. Each of the 4 gospels were written for different audiences and had slightly different messages.
Luke’s Gospel was written for Theophilus, it says so in the introduction, chapter 1, verse 1: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
His intention was to write that “orderly account” so as to lay out, without a shadow of a doubt, the position that Jesus was the Son of God. He was writing, primarily to a gentile population and his argument was that Jesus was truly larger than life. This differed slightly from Mark and Matthew as his audience was more cultured and his Gospel reads more like a novel.
His gospel and the Acts they are written almost as companion pieces to each other. From the word of God to the community that tried to live by that word, Luke appears to be telling a bigger story. It is a story that begins with Jesus, follow His life and teachings and sees that story continuing with the founding of the church and its spreading to Rome itself.
Luke is very reasoned in his writings; it is at times a little dispassionate and is often critical of society but he is not a firebrand or a radical. He lives well within the Roman / Greek world but is often criticized for the way that he calls to point the Jewish Traditions.
His portrayal of the prodigal son clearly shows both his approach and his message. From the son that squanders his inheritance, clearly referring to the Jewish legacy, to the other brother that is offended that the younger brother is even welcomed back, he is very good at crafting a story that spoke to various elements in that world.
Today’s gospel is another example. Jesus sends fourth the seventy-two disciples. This was identical to the number of elders that Moses calls forth to be anointed by God to go forth. Unlike the 72 in the book of numbers, they were not called to simply prophesied in camp they were sent forth, “like lambs among wolves.” Here suggesting that they might not be accepted in the communities in which they would be traveling.
The history of Luke’s Gospel is interesting and can offer a glimpse into its motivation and initial intentions. But the messages are just as real and revealing today and 2,000 years ago. Perhaps the parable was intended as a criticism of the Jewish hierarchy, but it remains and amazing lesson of Gods total love for us regardless of which son we might best associate with.
Today we are called to be “laborers for His harvest”. And while this simple truth sounds scary, it is a calling to the talent that you have and are called to use.
In 1 Peter chapter 4, we are told, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
The story that Luke lays out for us the simple fact that, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way;”
The alleluia verse reminded us, “I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last”.
LK 10:1- 9
The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter,
first say, ‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”
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