INTRODUCTION & PROLOGUE OPENING PRAYER Holy Spirit, sent by the Father,
ignite in us your holy fire;
strengthen us with the gift of faith,
revive your Church with the breath of love,
and help us to bring hope to the world,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
INTRODUCTION TO LUKE AND HIS GOSPEL
Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has been identified with St. Paul's "Luke, the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). We know few other facts about Luke's life from Scripture and from early Church historians. It is believed that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. Luke's gospel shows special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the GoodSamaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (Lk.4:25-27), and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan (Lk.17:11-19). According to the early Church historian 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 scholars have argued that Luke might 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 Eusebius, 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. Luke first joined Paul's company at Troas at about the year 51 and accompanied him into Macedonia where they traveled first to Samothrace, Neapolis, and finally Philippi. 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 in Troas in 58 where they first met up. 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: "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers" (Philemon 24). 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).
Luke's unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other gospels. Luke's is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarusand the Rich Man who ignored him.
Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus' 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 Jesus' 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 Jesus" 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 Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God's mercy.
Reading Luke's gospel gives a good idea of his character as 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.
The reports of Luke's life after Paul's death are conflicting. Some early writers claim he was martyred, others say he lived a long life. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. The earliest tradition we have says that he died at 84 Boeotia after settling in Greece to write his Gospel. A tradition that Luke was a painter seems to have no basis in fact. Several images of Mary appeared in later centuries claiming him as a painter but these claims were proved false. Because of this tradition, however, he is considered a patron of painters of pictures and is often portrayed as painting pictures of Mary.
He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice -- the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world. Luke is the patron of physicians and surgeons and his feast day is on 18th October.
THE TEXT: LUKE 1:1-4 (NRSV) PROLOGUE [Luke 1:1] Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us,
[Luke 1:2] just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,
[Luke 1:3] I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
[Luke 1:4] so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.
QUIETLY RE-READ THESE VERSES & THINK ABOUT THEM What is happening in the reading? What key words speak to you?
REFLECTION ON LUKE 1:1-4
Luke opens his gospel with a long, formal sentence. He is saying something solid, something you can trust. Writers in the first century would often write opening sentences like this and readers would know they were beginning a serious, well researched piece of work. Luke had read other accounts, spoken to eye witnesses, traced his sources, and listened to the religious Christian teachers.
In ancient Palestine, they had not printed books or newspapers, television or radios. They had official story tellers who would not change the story or modify it; if they did, people would notice and set them straight. Luke wrote down these stories. It is full of eye witness accounts.
Luke wrote the gospel and the book of Acts in the 60s or 70s ad and there were other writings circulating including Mark. Luke is writing his message to spread far and wide, beyond the regions Jesus visited.
Theophilus may be a real person, a Roman Governor or local official whom Luke has come to know.
During the 60s and 70s there is a horrendous war raging in Palestine. Jews were rebelling against the Roman Forces in 66ad and after a long siege, Jerusalem was destroyed in 70ad. The temple was destroyed as well as many villages Jesus would have visited. The eye witnesses and older people were dying and the stories of Jesus which depended for transmission on a peaceful and stable society were in danger of dying out. Luke therefore wrote down a clear, ordered, historic story of facts of the life of Jesus.
Luke invites us to come and read and to find security and faith.
(Notes adapted from LUKE FOR EVERYONE by TOM WRIGHT SPCK 2001)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
How does this opening compare to the openings in Matthew, Mark and John? What does it say about the author of Luke?
If you were going to write an account on the life of Christ, how would you start it? What would you stress and highlight? Who would you write for?
Creator God, you made us all in your image:
may we discern you in all that we see,
and serve you in all that we do;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
HOME WORK Please read LUKE 1:5-25