Saint Luke and the Universal Church
Updated: Oct 18
It is common for us to have moments in our faith journey when we think, “I wish I could have met Jesus like his apostles did” or “I could have stronger faith if I saw Jesus in action back then.” It would have been wonderful to walk with Him as they did, to hear His voice, to know the touch of His hand, and to look into His eyes. While I regularly share with Jesus how much I long to look upon His face, His words in John’s gospel often emerge during such prayers. Jesus said to Saint Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:29). It may surprise you to know that Saint Luke the Evangelist, who wrote a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, never met Jesus. He was more like us in this way.
Our common experience with Saint Luke is that we come to know Jesus and to faith through the Church. Saint Luke did not grow up a Christian and was not Jewish. He was a gentile. Through the Church’s preaching, sacraments, and witness he was introduced to Jesus and his faith life began and developed. Entering the Catholic Church would have been difficult. Saint Luke became a Christian during the time of the original apostles and met many of them. While they would have had a shared Jewish history and culture, Saint Luke did not. Given the prior separation between Jews and non-Jews (gentiles), there must have been challenges for him as an early gentile convert. Becoming Christian likely caused challenges for Saint Luke with his gentile family and friends as well. Why would he do it? Faith. Faith in Jesus Christ.
Given his experience as such an outsider, it comes as no surprise that Saint Luke’s New Testament texts emphasize that the invitation to faith and salvation is for all people. This should not surprise us since the Church is catholic, the Church is universal. Saint Luke’s gospel emphasizes stories that include the rejected, forgotten, and invisible of his time: tax collectors, prostitutes, publicly known sinners, gentiles, shepherds, and women. This was not Saint Luke pushing our modern ideology of radical inclusion and relativism. Rather, he included the stories, details, and parables that resonated with him as an outsider who found forgiveness and meaning in Christ. It was because Jesus really invited all to repentance and conversion, it was because Jesus truly encountered all walks of life, that Saint Luke was able to accept the invitation as a gentile.
Consider how relevant this is for our time. Regardless of your background, Jesus invites you to a new way of life. Jesus invites all of us to know Him in this life so that we may be with Him forever in the next. Who are we being called to invite on behalf of Jesus? Who are our rejected, forgotten, and invisible? As Benedict XVI said in 2008, “With what great vitality this was seen on the day of Pentecost, as it became the grace and the task of the Church towards the world, her primary mission!” It is no surprise that this Pentecost is found in Saint Luke’s Acts of the Apostles.
Saint Luke’s feast day is October 18th.
Saint Luke, pray for us.