(Died circa 84 AD)
Luke was born in Antioch and was a Gentile. We know this because, Paul always mentions first “those of the circumcision” (that is, the Jews), in the Letter to the Colossians, when speaking of his companions without including Luke among them (cf. Col 4:10-11).
And in his Gospel, Luke shows a particular sensitivity with regard to the evangelization of the Gentiles. The parable of the Good Samaritan is found only in his Gospel; and it is Luke who records Jesus’ appreciation for the faith of the widow of Zarephath, of Naaman the Syrian, and of the Samaritan leper – the only one of the 10 lepers who were healed who returned to express his gratitude.
Though we do not know anything certain about the circumstances of Luke’s conversion, we do know he became a companion of Paul. In his Acts of the Apostles, Luke writes in the third person up to the 16th chapter.
After Paul’s vision of a man from Macedonia (who asked him to join them and help them), it passes to the first person plural: “And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them” (Acts 16:9-10).
Luke accompanied Paul on many of his missions around the eastern Mediterranean. When Paul was imprisoned at Rome in the year 61, Luke remained at his side, as we see from the Letters of Paul to Philemon and to Timothy. In fact, after being abandoned by all, in the final phase of his imprisonment, Paul writes to Timothy, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Tim 4,11).
Luke’s Gospels show a particular concern for the poor, and for victims of injustice, for repentant sinners welcomed by the forgiveness and the mercy of God. Luke is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man; of the Prodigal Son and the merciful Father who welcomes him back with open arms; and of the sinful woman who was forgiven, and who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, and dried them with her hair. St. Luke gave us the Magnificat, where Mary proclaims the mercy of God, Who “has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree,” Who “has filled the hungry with good things,” and sends the rich away empty (Lk 1:52-53).
It is Luke to whom Mary gave the account of several events in her life: the words of the Angel at the Annunciation; the visit of Mary to Elizabeth and the Magnificat; the details of the Presentation in the Temple; and the beautiful portrait of the anguish of Mary and Joseph when they could not find the 12-year-old Jesus. It is very probably to this narrative and descriptive sensitivity that we owe the tradition of St. Luke as a painter – a tradition that is represented in traditional iconography. He is also a patron of physicians (hence the name of our local hospital).
Details of St. Luke’s death are uncertain. Some sources speak of his martyrdom, while others say he lived to old age. The oldest traditions say he died in Boeotia at age 84, where he had settled to write his Gospel. The relics of his body are to be found in the Abbey of Santa Giustina, in Padua; a rib from his body was sent to his original tomb in Thebes; and his skull is preserved in Prague, in the Cathedral of St. Vitus.
Adapted by A.J. Valentino