Today Christians celebrate Luke, the Evangelist, author of a Gospel and Acts of the Apostles. As you know, I adopted Saint Luke as yet another one of my many patron saints (I need a lot of inspiration!) because I proclaim and discuss Luke’s Gospel as my primary ministry. I love Luke’s Gospel in the way it affirms God’s Spirit at work within everyone, celebrating the Divine Spark of the Soul. Furthermore, this same Spirit is accessible to all who seek the good, the true and the beautiful for it not only hovers above all creation but is equally within our midst. Luke’s Gospel highlights God’s mercy embodied in Jesus who invites all people to trust in our common humanity. That is how we will experience God most fully because we are created as interdependent beings, continually dependent on forgiveness from God and one another. Luke is patron to doctors and nurses, artists and butchers! This may seem a strange combination of professional people for Luke to represent before God. Thankfully, Church History offers an explanation.
With Luke identified in the Bible as “beloved physician”–(as cited by the author of the New Testament Letter to the Colossians 4; 14) his patronage of Christians in the medical profession was readily understood. As for “Artists,” Church tradition held that Luke painted some of the original icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary having met her in Ephesus when he accompanied Saint Paul on his second and third missionary journeys. This concept reinforced by the fact that Luke’s Gospel offers the most details about Mary and her role as Christ’s mother and as his foremost disciple. As for butchers (my grandfather, Mauro DiLuzio was a butcher), it seems these men came to ask for Luke’s prayers as early as the second century when Luke and his Gospel became associated with the symbol of an ox. By this time Christians had interpreted the Prophet Ezekiel’s vision, (Ezekiel 1: 4-11) as a precursor to the four evangelists (Gospel authors) whose writings became the Church’s authoritative foundation for the life of Jesus. Ezekiel’s envisioned four angelic / human figures, each with heads in “Cinerama,” i.e., with the forward face of a man, the face of a lion to the right, face of an ox to the left, the face of an eagle at the back. These same faces appear individually on four distinct creatures described by the disciple John in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 4:6-7). Revelation thus reinforced early Christian practice of attributing each of these symbols to one of the four Gospel writers: Matthew (man/angel), Mark (Lion), Luke (Ox) and John (Eagle). The ox was attributed to Luke because he alone cites the birth of Jesus in a manger (feeding trough for domesticated animals). Jewish tradition understood Ezekiel’s vision as representative of all Created beings–human, wild animals, domesticated animals and birds. Fittingly, Luke’s Gospel emphasizes inter-connected nature of all creation and its dependence on God (Luke 12: 22-34) as he highlights the ways the realities of our environments and life situations impact our relationship with God and one another (Luke 6:20-26).
Scholars tell us Luke was a Syrian Gentile collecting the stories about Jesus from the early Christian community in Syrian Antioch around 85 A.D. The community there comprised both Jewish and Gentile believers. Interestingly, Luke’s two-part work (the Gospel and Acts of the Apostles) is the only segment of the Bible written by a Gentile. His Gospel, however, reveals his tremendous respect for the Jewish people and his recognition of Judaism as the foundation upon which Christianity can into being.