Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

October 15, 2007

St. Luke's Masterpiece

A masterpiece is the work of an artist. It is the product of a large dream and years of toil.

A masterpiece is not limited to paintings or sculptures. It can be a Grammy-winning album or an Oscar-winning performance, or a perfect game pitched in baseball.

St. Luke was a member of the early Church. He wasn't one of the Apostles. In fact, he most likely never met Jesus. Rather, he was a traveling companion of St. Paul and, as Paul described him, a "beloved physician" (Col 4:14). Luke may have been with Paul at the very end of his life (2 Tm 4:11).

The life work or masterpiece for Luke came in the area of writing.
Luke's goal was to write a history and life of Jesus and an account of the formation of the Church. This was a different approach than the other evangelists took; their concerns were less biographical and more written accounts of faith.

Luke's finished product was one literary work with two parts. The first is easy to recognize; it is the Gospel of Luke. The second part of Luke's work is the Acts of the Apostles. Both the Gospel of Luke and Acts have a common prologue addressing the material to "Theophilus."

As any complete biography would, Luke includes information about the very beginning of Jesus' life, including the announcement of his birth, his Mother's preparations, the birth (in a cave), the presentation at the Temple, and another visit to the Temple when Jesus was twelve years old. Most of this information is unique to Luke's Gospel.

Luke was a polished writer. He wrote in Greek and his work was for a Gentile audience. An example of this is the way he took great pains to explain the Jewish laws that Matthew did not have to explain for his Jewish audience. Matthew took the genealogy from Jesus to Abraham, the father of the Jewish faith. Luke extended the genealogy all the way to Adam, the father of the human race.

Luke's Gospel (and Acts, as well) is arranged around a journey. Whereas Mark's Gospel takes only one chapter to tell of Jesus' travels from Galilee to Jerusalem, Luke takes ten, from 9:51 to 19:40. During this journey, he introduces many teaching's of Jesus, most of them addressed only to the Apostles.

The Holy Spirit is also very prominent in Luke. The Spirit is present at Jesus' baptism, leads Jesus to the desert, and returns him to Galilee. When Jesus reads the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue, it is the Spirit who identifies him as the Messiah, God's Chosen One.

There is no clear information about the end of Luke's life, though early Church tradition holds that he wrote his Gospel in Greece and died at the age of 84. One thing that is clear is that he was a person who accomplished what he set out to do, the task he outlined in the very first verses of his Gospel:

Many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us. I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty for the teachings you have received (Luke 1:1-4).

St. Luke's Feast Day is October 18.

1. What do you hope will be your life masterpiece?
2. If you could know one thing about Jesus' hidden years (ages 13 to 30)what would it be?
3. How are you welcoming to people both within and outside of the Church?

  • Ask the students to imagine that they have been assigned to write a definitive account of Jesus' life. Tell them to write down the ten most important events from the life of Jesus (miracles, parables, teachings, etc.) that would have to go into the story, ranking them from 1 to 10. When they have finished, compare several of the lists.
  • Read a teaching or parable unique to the Gospel of Luke (e.g., the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15). With the participants, discuss how the story you read fits in with Luke's overall themes and objectives.

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