Luke the physician

Daily Reading for October 19 • St. Luke the Evangelist (transferred)

There is no way for me to speak objectively of St. Luke or of his feast day. I live with a physician, have spent almost 75 percent of my life with him, and plan to spend 100 percent of its remainder with him. That fact alone means that the patron saint of healing will always be seen by all of us in this household in terms of medicine’s most immediate and visible practitioner. It means that inevitably we see St. Luke in terms of the characteristics of personality and of mental function that we know from experience draw a person into the role of physician and that also make him or her able in it.

Even if all of the above were not part of my experience, however, I would probably still have some trouble being casual about St. Luke. Most of us do. Because he was a physician and because of those very characteristics and turns of disposition that mark his profession, he was in many ways the dominant Gospel writer. Of the many parables of our Lord recorded in the New Testament, eighteen of them are related to us only by St. Luke. Without his educated and curious ear, in other words, more than half of our Lord’s active teachings would have gone untransmitted. Likewise, six of the Lord’s miracles are recorded only by Luke, five of them quite naturally dealing with healing itself.

We cannot leave Luke, though, without recalling what must be the most poignant words in the Epistles. Paul, approaching death and under house arrest in Rome, writes for the last time to the young Timothy. In closing the letter of farewell, he adds, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). Of course he was; he was a physician. And, from living with a physician, I know whose burden it is to stand by, not only in life but even into death.

From “In Sickness and in Health” by Phyllis Tickle, in The Graces We Remember: Sacred Days of Ordinary Time in her series “Stories from The Farm In Lucy” (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1988).

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