This year’s Kalendar transfers the Feast of St. Luke from yesterday, Sunday, to today, Monday. Luke appears to have been a physician, possibly a member of the early Church in Antioch. He accompanied St. Paul on missionary journeys through what is now Turkey and Greece. He then accompanied Paul from Jerusalem to his house arrest in Rome, where according to tradition Paul was then martyred and Luke somehow escaped that fate. Luke later compiled two accounts of the origins of Christianity--the Gospel attributed to him and the Book of Acts. Both books are addressed to a Greek-named auditor called Theophilus—“God-Lover”--who likely personifies a Gentile convert. The book of Acts follows directly upon the Gospel book. Thus the two books stitch together stories of the birth of the Church in its apostolic age with stories of the life of Jesus from the time immediately before that.
Luke’s overall narrative takes us from Nazareth and Bethlehem all the way to Rome. It emphasizes the concern of Jesus and His apostles for those who were especially vulnerable and undervalued: the poor, the sick, women, and outsiders to Judaism. This is encapsulated in Luke’s account of the festival of Pentecost, found in the second chapter of the book of Acts. Inspired by the Holy Spirit the apostles are able to proclaim the Good News of Jesus in a way that reaches out to the whole of humanity, crossing boundaries that can often separate people--geography, language and culture, ethnicity and race, and what we would now call social class.
Luke’s Gospel and the Book of Acts present together an amazingly connected account of a crucial turning point in the history of salvation. To get a sense of this breadth of view, spend a whole morning or afternoon in reading the two entire books in succession, from start to finish. When you come to the end of the Gospel According to Luke, walk around a little and breathe. Maybe have a snack and a glass of something. Then start The Acts of the Apostles and continue on to its end.
Try this. It’s a wonderful trip.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington