Cloud of Witnesses

Reflections on Saint Luke and his Gospel

17th-century unknown painters - St Luke the Apostle and Evangelist - WGA23506.jpg
Unknown Icon Painter, Russian (2nd half of 17th century)Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, Link

We do well to think about St. Luke’s Gospel on his Feast Day.  St. Luke, said to have been an artist who painted or wrote the first icon of the Blessed Virgin, paints a portrait of Jesus Christ as the Merciful Savior. At the outset, Jesus is described as the One who comes “in the tender compassion of Our God… to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the way of peace.” He comes to those most in need of his mercy, to the poor and humble, to the lost, and the forgotten.

Jesus comes to the poor as one who is poor. God becomes for our sakes. He embraces the poverty of the family is born into–when he is presented in the Temple there is no mention of a lamb but turtle doves and pigeons, the offering of those who could not afford. The infancy/childhood narrative that only St. Luke’s provides ends with the Holy Family living in unassuming Nazareth. Later, in the Gospel according to St. Luke, Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus is recounted, as well as the parable of the good Samaritan, bringing attention to those in need.

Jesus comes for the spiritually poor, sick, and needy as well. When 12-year-old Jesus is “lost,” with he’s in solidarity all those who are lost. He comes to seek the lost, the ones who “dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Jesus is the shepherd who leaves the 99 in search for the one stray lamb. In Luke’s Gospel, he tells the parable of the prodigal son–which is really about the prodigal Father who lavishes mercy on sinners. Throughout the Gospel, we see Jesus as the Good Samaritan, ostracized by some of his own, taking the place of the man in the ditch. He is the Divine Physician who comes to bind our wounds by becoming wounded and bound in swaddling burial cloths.

These are things that stand out to me in the Gospel of Luke. I can’t fail to notice that Luke was a physician, the only New Testament writer who mentions that Jesus’ sweat falls to the ground as drops of blood (a real medical condition called hematidrosis: of being under extreme duress to the point that capillaries burst and mingle with sweat). And Luke is the only one who records the event of the Road to Emmaus. It’s one of my favorite accounts of the Resurrection: the Resurrected I started to walks alongside two of his disciples who are so traumatized by the events of Good Friday that they fail to recognize him. Jesus makes as if he doesn’t know what has happened, then he proceeds to reveal himself in the Scriptures and in the “breaking of the bread.”This is a masterfully written outline of the Holy Mass.

It’s also interesting that St. Luke mentions that Our Lady kept “all these things in her heart.” After her heart was pierced by the lance–and then given the great joy of seeing her resurrected Son–she revealed what was on her heart to the very early Church. There was no way for St. Luke to know about the conception, birth, and childhood of Christ unless this information was shared with him by Mary herself. Maybe she related these details to him while he painted her image.

As an artist, I feel that it’s fitting for me to take the time to write about Saint Luke, patron of artists, on his Feast Day. And it’s about time that I stop being lazy and start posting again.

St. Luke, pray for us.

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