2 Tm 4:10-17; Ps 145:10-13,17,18; Lk 10:1-9
Throughout the ages of Christian iconography Saint Luke has been depicted as a winged ox. He is strong to pull the plow, and he flies from heaven to earth with the message of salvation. His gospel breaks open the soil to receive the word sown again and again in our reading and reflecting. Saint Luke is the only synoptic author who tells us the parables of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and the Pharisee and the Publican. Saint Luke is the compassionate healer who reveals the depths of Christ’s love upon the cross when we hear, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom. Today, you will be with me in paradise.” This friend of the Lord Jesus makes known to us the mighty power of God in Christ and the glorious splendor of his Kingdom. This Kingdom is near to all who call upon him in truth. Like the thief upon the cross next to Jesus, we share in his suffering and he shares in ours. We call upon him in the truth of our desperation and pain. He is strong to save us; strong like an ox. This strong support was with Saint Paul, as he writes, “Luke is the only one with me.” In his time of abandonment Saint Luke is there, faithful and strong. Two other animals are mentioned in today’s gospel from Saint Luke: “Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” The Lord Jesus reveals our identity in being sent; we are lambs among wolves. Even though Saint Luke was strong like an ox, he was truly a lamb who was carried by the Good Shepherd. Indeed, this is our strength. We are carried, held, protected, and nourished by the Good Shepherd who lays down his life so that we might be saved. He, the Good Shepherd, is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
In his letter to Saint Timothy we hear of a painful time in the apostolic ministry of Saint Paul. Demas, Crescens, and Titus, deserted him. Alexander did him great harm. No one was present at his first defense; everyone deserted him. Saint Luke remained with him, and he was a faithful support for Saint Paul. Both apostles had a great attraction to the Gentile mission of the church. Saint Paul wrote his Epistles to many predominately Gentile communities, and Saint Luke wrote his Gospel for a church that was made up of mostly Gentile converts. Without the ministry of these great saints, we Gentiles would not have known the good news of salvation. Both saints could proclaim what Saint Paul wrote, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” We, too, have the Lord Jesus standing at our side and with his strength we continue our mission of bringing good news to all we meet as we share in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, carrying his cross daily.
Perhaps the Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples to go forth because at that time the Jews thought that there were seventy-two Gentile nations. Saint Luke has the Lord reaching out to every land and nation even before the Paschal Mystery is completed and the Spirit is sent forth at Pentecost. This missionary journey is inspired by the great harvest. Out of the Lord’s compassion he cannot hold back. He longs to fill the banquet hall of the Kingdom of God. The Lord also shows compassion on his disciples; he sent them in pairs. He wanted them to have the support of at least one other member of the flock. Finally, in this instruction he commanded them, “Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’” The Lord Jesus wanted them to find fellowship with the community by staying put in one place, and he wanted them to share in their table fellowship, regardless of Jewish dietary law. Indeed the Kingdom of God is near for all those who welcome those who come with good news and healing love.