Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
The Gospel passage for today's feast of St. Luke the Evangelists recalls the fact that Jesus was surrounded by a group of seventy-two disciples. We assume that the Twelve were selected from among these disciples. Scholars point out that the number seventy-two is probably symbolic. There is some thought that they represent the thirty-six different "countries" or known civilizations of that time, remembering that Jesus sent them out two by two.
One might also get the notion that St. Luke was among these seventy-two since the passage is used on his feast day. However, St. Luke himself says in the opening lines of his Gospel that he was not an eyewitness to the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. He is also cited in several of the letters of St. Paul, one of which is used for the first reading for today's liturgy. This would indicate that he was a disciple of St. Paul who also freely admits that he was not an eyewitness of Jesus' time on earth.
St. Luke is responsible for twenty-five percent of the Christian Scriptures which we call the New Testament. His Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles are parallel texts. After completing the Gospel, St. Luke writes of the various activities of the men and women who followed Jesus. There is a strong correlation between Jesus' actions in the Gospel and the actions of the disciples. Some of the strongest correlation can be seen when we place the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin alongside the trial of Paul in the Acts.
It is believed that St. Luke was a Graeco-Syrian physician who resided in the city of Antioch where he was converted to the faith by the preaching of St. Paul. In several places in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke uses the first person plural pronoun "we." This seems to indicate that after his conversion, he joined St. Paul on several of his missionary journeys. A fourth-century texts seems to indicate that St. Luke lived a long life and died at the age of approximately eighty-four in the city of Thebes.
St. Luke's Gospel stands apart from the other two synoptic Gospels in that it accentuates the times that Jesus reached out to non-Jewish people. It also presents us with a very compassionate Jesus. The parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are peculiar to his Gospel. It is also in St. Luke's Gospel that Jesus reaches out to the repentant thief. Even as he is dying, Jesus extends the mercy and compassion of God to a sinner. By including these episodes in his Gospel, St. Luke reminds us that Jesus came for all people, not just a chosen few.