“Only Luke is with me.”
I have always loved this simple yet poignant remark of Paul. There is a compelling kind of elegance and simplicity to it. It captures something of the nature of the loneliness of the ministry in its deep truth and meaning. Even more, it captures something of the spiritual significance of Luke, “Evangelist and Physician of the soul,” as the Collect puts it, for the life of the Christian Church. There is, it seems, something profoundly comforting about the presence of Luke with Paul. And so, too, with us.
Luke is the Church’s great and primary spiritual director, as it were, especially in the long Trinity season. There is a certain felt quality to his writings, both in his Gospel and in The Book of The Acts of the Apostles, generally attributed to him. Dante captures the special quality of Luke’s approach to the mystery of God in Christ, the mystery of human redemption, in a phrase. Luke, he says, is “scriba mansuetudinis Christi,” the scribe of the gentleness of Christ. I have often been struck by that phrase. It seems to capture the real meaning and truth of our spiritual pilgrimage, the journey of the soul to God with God in Jesus Christ. It highlights a special quality to that pilgrimage – gentleness. Not our gentleness but the gentleness of Christ, which at once provides a profound insight into God’s engagement with our wounded and broken humanity and a strong corrective to the negative views of divine judgment; a counter to our despair and our anxieties.
We have been pondering the powerful teachings of the Trinity season, emphasising, in our own poor way, the idea of an ethic of action rooted in compassion. Not surprisingly, Luke has been our principal instructor about such an ethic which speaks so profoundly to the confusions and lunacies of our day where either Profit or the Self is God which neither can possibly be. In the absence of any kind of principled ethical discourse, and even on the eve of a federal election here in Canada, there is really only the tyranny of global corporatism or the subjective tyranny of the self. Yet here in this feast, almost as a kind of counter to those totalizing concepts, we are reminded that “only Luke is with [us]”. It seems somehow to make a difference to our thinking and our doing.