Care for Those on the Margins

Today the church honors the Feast Day of St. Luke, the Evangelist.

We believe Luke was a Greek, and a Gentile, but we’re not really sure where he’s from or much about his life, other than he was a physician. He was a disciple of St. Paul and worked alongside him in missionary endeavors.

In Luke’s Gospel (which has a sequel in the Book of Acts) we learn that Luke was not an eyewitness to anything Jesus did or said. According to early lore Luke wrote his Gospel in Greece and preached in Bithynia, though we can’t verify any of that. Lore also has him reaching the ripe old age of eighty-four, a bachelor all those years.

Again, none of that is really more than speculation.

There is also an obviously dubious claim that he painted the first picture of Mary, Mother of Our Lord. For this reason many icons have him holding a painting of her.

The observance of this day as his feast day is quite old in the Eastern Church, and may be closely associated with the actual day of his death. On this day in many places people will make special donations to hospitals and nursing homes, an homage to this physician-evangelist, and there may have even been some “healing services” or anointing services happening in some churches (though, in the midst of a pandemic, I imagine this physician would rather churches not gather in person this year).

Luke’s spiritual sign is the patient ox, because he plods along in his story, slowly, recounting in detail much about Jesus and the life of the early church.

Luke’s Gospel is marked by special attention to women, the sick, and the marginalized communities in general in the ancient world. For this reason it is the favorite Gospel of many. Luke, for instance, has Jesus giving his main sermon not on a mountain, but on a plain…a sign of equality (and, also, a reminder that the Gospels don’t all match up). Luke also notes that “Blessed are the poor” in his recounting of the Beatitudes includes an economic element. Matthew changed it to “poor in spirit,” but Luke has it as “those who are in poverty.”

Luke, and in his recounting, Jesus, cares deeply for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized.

He is a reminder for me, and for the whole church, that the church, too, has a duty first and foremost not to the powerful, but to those Jesus felt a duty toward: the poor, the sick, and the marginalized.

-icon written by Theophilia

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