Today is St Luke's Day – 18 October
The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”’
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Luke. Luke wrote two major parts of our Bible: first his Gospel, where he covers the life of Jesus and then, secondly, the Acts of the Apostles where he covers the life of the early church. Luke perhaps more than any other writer of the New Testament shows us the beautiful continuation from the life of Jesus through to the early Church.
In our Gospel reading we are told how Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples two thousand years ago. Today, we are prompted by Luke to think of all those disciples who have gone before us and to try to draw strength from their faith. We still share their mission today!
The gospel of Luke could easily be described as the gospel of mercy. Luke portrays Jesus as the face of God’s mercy, which is also one of Pope Francis’ favourite ways of referring to Jesus: the Son of God, the merciful Father. Some of the most memorable passages of mercy are to be found only in Luke’s gospel, such as the story of the sinful woman anointing the feet of Jesus, the parable of the prodigal son, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the meeting of Jesus and Zacchaeus, and the dialogue between the good thief and Jesus on the cross. It is above all in Luke that Jesus is portrayed as revealing the hospitable love of God towards people's brokenness.
Our painting by Rogier Van der Weyden depicts Saint Luke drawing Our Lady who is holding baby Jesus. During the Middles Ages, Saint Luke gained his own devotional following as the patron saint of artists. Whilst there is no record of Saint Luke actually painting the Virgin Mary, it is nevertheless a tender, intimate portrayal of both the Evangelist and Our Lady. In the background of the painting we can see Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne. The evangelist, who supposedly practised medicine, is shown dressed like a Flemish doctor. The throne, hinting at Our Lady's future status as the Queen of Heaven, is decorated with carved figures of Adam and Eve. Luke's trembling reverence when drawing the Virgin is tangible.