Wednesday, October 18, and Thursday, October 19, 2017

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist

(II Timothy 4:10-17b; Luke 10:1-9)

If the Church were to use only one gospel, many people would want it to be the Gospel According to Luke.  Although not the most profound theologically, Luke’s Gospel shines in ways that touch the human heart deeply.  It gives the most detailed account of Jesus’ birth as well as of Mary, the mother of God.  It also relates the most memorable of Jesus’ parables and shows Jesus constantly in prayer.  This list could go on almost indefinitely.

We call the author of the third gospel “Luke” but cannot be sure who he was or even if “Luke” was really his name.   Several sources from the second century identify him with the Luke who is occasionally mentioned in the Pauline letters as we heard today.  Because at one point in these letters he is described as a “beloved physician,” he is honored by medical professionals as their patron.  He is also said to have painted a portrait of the Virgin Mother which is kept in the Basilica of St. Mary Major Thus, he enjoys the patronage of artists as well.  But it seems more accurate to name his profession as how he describes himself: an historical researcher who puts in good order the events of the life of Christ (see Luke 1:1-3). 

Yet Luke is more than a historian because his narrative, as we see in today’s gospel, announces the “kingdom of God.” Luke found that kingdom personified in Jesus himself who comes to show mercy on all.  Luke is especially careful to show the inclusiveness of this “all” as he is especially solicitous of the poor, women, and almost hopeless sinners. 

Memorial of Saints Jean Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, priest and martyrs, and companions, martyrs

(Romans 3:21-30; Luke 11:47-54)

A lovely story indicates the sanctity of the North American Martyrs whom we celebrate today.  St. Isaac Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and tortured terribly.  His fingers were cut off, but he was able to escape his captors and eventually returned to France for healing.  While there, he wrote the pope for permission to celebrate the Eucharist since Church law at the time specified that the priest’s hands must be intact to celebrate Mass.  The pope wrote back saying that anyone who sheds his blood for Christ should not be denied the privilege of drinking the blood of Christ. (Another note: at the time only priests at the altar drank from the chalice.)  Isaac then returned to North America where he was captured again and martyred.

In today first reading Paul tells how Christ died to save all – Jew and Gentile.  But to be saved one must believe in his death and resurrection.  Jean Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, and companions not only believed but also demonstrated their faith by risking their lives as missionaries.  Their eloquent testimony with blood has brought many Native Americans to embrace the faith and edifies the character of others.

Today we accept the doctrine of Vatican II that one does not have to explicitly profess faith in Christ for to be saved.  We hold that following one’s conscience can result in salvation.  But we should not fool ourselves into thinking that following one’s conscience is simply a matter of acting consistently with whatever values one claims.  No, one must discern that the God who made us also loves us and that we must follow His lead.  It is a tall order indeed to believe this without first-hand witness to Jesus Christ.