October 18

St. Luke

The author we call Luke was a highly educated and fluid author. His Greek was impeccable and very stylized. Yet he empathized with the lowest on the social latter; the Christ of Luke was the Messiah of the underclass. We can assume part of that outlook was rooted in the Church's missionary efforts. He wrote the Acts of the Apostles, the history of the early Church and played up leaders, like St. Paul, who spread the faith. The readings focus upon the those who evangelized.

First Reading: 2 Timothy 4:9-17

9 (Timothy,) be diligent to come to me quickly. 10 For, Demas has left me behind, having loved the present age and traveled to Thessalonika, Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Rising up, bring Mark with you, for he is useful in service to me. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 Traveling (to me), bring the coat which I left in Troas with Carpus, (along with) the small books, especially the parchment. 14 Alexander the blacksmith did many bad things to me; the Lord will give back to him according to his deeds. 15 Guard yourself against him, for he strongly stood against our message.

16 At my first defense, no one came for me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be reckoned against them. 17 But the Lord stood beside me and gave me strength, that through me the preaching might be fully convincing and all peoples might hear, and I was rescued from the mouth of the lion.

4:11b "bring Mark with you, for he is useful in service to me" In Acts 15:37-39, Paul refused to have Mark join him and Barnabas in a missionary effort, for Mark had left Paul earlier. In 4:11b, the author seemed to implicitly reconcile the two men.

4:12 Tychicus was Paul's messenger to various Church communities (see Colossians 4:7 and Ephesians 6:21).

4:16 "At my first defense..." The Roman system of justice assumed the prisoner to be guilty until proven innocent. The "first defense" was a preliminary hearing to hear the charges; this would lead to his eventual martyrdom. The author pictured St. Paul standing alone before the magistrate and feeling abandoned.

4:17 "the preaching might be fully convincing" is literally "the preaching might be fulfilled up (in others)."

"I was rescued from the mouth of the lion" referred to Paul's rescue. The verse he quoted was from Psalm 22:22.

2 Timothy ends with "personal" details about St. Paul's imprisonment. The term "personal" is in quotes, since most scholars believe 1 and 2 Timothy, along with Titus, were written after Paul's death in 65 AD. Issues and writing style argue for such a later composition. The question is: how much later? Details like those found in 4:9-17 seem to indicate a direct connection of the author to the historical Paul, either through the copy of a lost manuscript from Paul's, personal recollection of a first hand witness, or the memory of the community at Rome. So, we can reasonably assume a date of composition in the later part of the first century AD.

Paul divided colleagues into former and present. The former either abandoned Paul (Demas) or became an apostate (Alexander). Some left (we assume) to evangelize new regions (Crescens and Titus). That left Luke, Timothy and Mark to see to his needs. Paul's request to Timothy for more help seemed to be one of the reasons the author presented for its composition. He felt alone, but wanted to continue his apostolic work.

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Gospel: Luke 10:1-9

1 After these (events), Jesus appointed seventy [two] others and sent them out two [by two] before his face into all the towns and places where he intended to go. 2 He said to them, "Indeed, the harvest is great. But the workers are few. Beg the Lord of the harvest that he might put workers out into his harvest."

10:1 "seventy [two] . . . two [by two]" The words in brackets are variants found in many manuscripts.

"before his face" The term "face" meant the presence of the person. Jesus sent out seventy envoys to prepare for his arrival. This has overtones of the Second Coming.

10:2 "he might put workers out" is literally "he might throw out." The word can imply force or dynamic action. This is the same word Luke used to describe the influence of the Spirit in Mark 1:12 when Jesus went into the desert after his baptism. Implicitly, Jesus wanted his followers to pray the Father sent his Spirit to energize those evangelizing others. He asked prayer for the Spirit's dynamic, decisive action.

The commission of the seventy began with a short prayer. The Messianic harvest had begun. Many yearned to hear the Good News. But the few numbers of missionaries limited access for those peoples. Jesus encouraged the missionaries themselves to pray for companions. The work of the Lord needed as many hands as necessary!

3 Go! Look! I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves.

Jesus followed the prayer with a warning. Danger lurked for traveling missionaries. Traveling in pairs gave some safety. Jesus included other instructions to insure the success and safety of the followers.

4 Do not carry a money bag nor (extra) sandals. Do not greet anyone along the way. 5 Into whichever house you might go, first say, "Peace to this house." 6 If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him. But if indeed not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house eating and drinking (meals) along side them. For a worker is worthy of his wage. Do not move from house to house. 8 Into whichever city you go, and they welcome you, eat that being set before you.

10:4 "Do not carry a money bag nor (extra) sandals." Jesus instructed his missionaries to travel light and depend upon the hospitality of others for food and shelter. Hence they did not need money, nor extra sandals. Implicitly, while Jesus encouraged fast travel, he also discouraged theft, since his followers did not have anything worth stealing.

"Do not greet anyone along the way." Jesus did not encourage social rudeness. He simply wanted his advance people to remain focused. Greeting people along the way meant socializing that could delay the missionaries for days at a time. The time to socialize would come when the missionaries arrived at their destination (see 10:5).

10:5 "Peace to this house." This is a traditional Hebrew greeting that, in the context of the mission, has Messianic overtones. In other words, the Shalom of the greeting had a reason. The house should be at peace for the Lord was coming soon.

"son of peace" This referred to a person of Messianic peace, a person who was hospitable and willing to hear the Good News.

"...your peace will rest on him. But if indeed not, it will return to you." Luke implied that, once the word was spoken, peace had an existence independent of the speaker. The best analogy of a word with an independent existence is a military order. Once the command is given, it has a power that required those to obey. The power came from the speaker but "rested" on the listener. In the same way, the peace of the missionary "rested' on the family (i.e., house). The power of the peace came not only came from the missionary, but from the Lord who commissioned the missionary.

10:8 "eat that being set before you." Common courtesy demanded a guest eat whatever he was served. The problem came when the Jewish-Christian missionaries passed through Gentile areas (which Jesus did in Mark 7:31, for example). If they stayed with Gentiles and ate their food, they would become unclean. This was a real pastoral problem in the early Church. In Luke, Jesus seemed to imply the risk of becoming unclean was far outweighed by the urgency of preaching the Good News to all who would welcome it.

The travel instructions were to provide focus for missionaries. First, they were to travel light and quick, depending totally upon the hospitality of strangers. Next, they were to greet a host family in such a way that their mission would be clearly communicated; their greeting would identify them as messengers of God's Kingdom and his Messiah. Third, the pair was to remain with one family in an area and eat with them as honored guests (this, and only this, was their reward). If they went from family to family, their movement might distract from their mission (families would compete for the honor of hosting distinguished strangers, instead of listening to the message) and cause scandal (people might infer the missionaries were shopping for the best deal). Finally, they were to eat what was presented to them, no matter where they traveled. These instructions helped the missionaries concentrate on the work before them.

9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you!'"

For any traveler who was welcomed into a home, there was a "quid pro quo." Many travelers would enthrall their hosts with stories of their travels. A night's entertainment was worth the meal and bed the hosts provided.

The "quid pro quo" the missionaries provided was obviously more than travel narratives. They proclaimed the Kingdom in word and power. What the hosts received far outweighed the courtesy they extended.

Luke was a true Evangelist. He wrote so others would believe. We can also infer he traveled along with Paul on missionary efforts (the pronoun switch in the narrative from third person "they" to first person "we" in Acts 16:11, for example). So, he lived what he wrote. We honor him this day for his literary gifts to the Church and his personal efforts to spread the Good News.