Homily on the Feast of Saint Luke
Some time ago, I heard someone say that the Gospel According to St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were originally one book and that in the Luke portion, the cross is always referred to as a cross, but in the Acts portion, the cross is always referred to as a tree. According to the tradition of the Church, St. Luke was the author of Luke-Acts, but moonlighted as a physician, meaning that he was always close to the suffering, needs, and mundanity of others’ lives. Imagine the things Dr. St. Luke would have heard in his practice:
“I’ve had this cough for two months and can’t seem to shake it.”
“I lost my mother four years ago and haven’t been the same since.”
“Every time I think about the journey to Rome, I get anxious.”
“I haven’t slept since we had our third child.”
As a physician, St. Luke was close to the everyday crosses people bore. At the same time, in light of the resurrection - that cosmos-shifting event - Luke could see those crosses as trees, determined to bloom against all odds.
That is the difference the baptized life makes, isn’t it? The difference is that we are offered the gift of not only Good Friday, but Holy Saturday and Easter. We are given permission to be as human as we need to be, of mourning when needed, of rejoicing when needed, of understanding the crosses we bear as the trees that they sometimes are, budding with redemptive potential, offering the shade we so desperately need in life’s scorching moments.
Luke is the patron of physicians, bachelors, artists, students, and butchers. I would argue that he is also the patron of arborists, people who seek out and take care of trees, who tend to them with great detail, who understand that crosses have multiple dimensions, that suffering is complex, that the place of imperial execution can also be the site of cosmic liberation.
Dr. Luke understood this viscerally, even though he wasn’t an eyewitness of crucifixion. He knew the body’s intricacies, how it remembers trauma, holds stress, can become enveloped in pain. And he knew the body’s resilience, its regular triumphs over memory, its longing for wholeness and resurrection. And maybe that is the invitation of this Eucharist, to sharpen our sanctified imaginations even further, to feast on flesh when we only taste bread, to see a tree mistaken for a cross.
The Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist
Saint John's Cathedral, Denver