Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

Readings: 2 Timothy 4:10-17b; Psalm 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18; Luke 10:1-9

As we celebrate the feast of this great saint today, we might reflect a little on what it means to be an evangelist. As applied to St. Luke, the word is used in its narrow meaning to refer to any one of the four people after whom the gospels are named: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But the word has a broader meaning. As we probably already know, it comes from the Greek euangelion meaning good news. An evangelist is thus one who preaches the good news. But what exactly does that mean? Perhaps, when we hear of preaching, the image of a pastor or priest at a pulpit or in a church immediately comes to mind. But is that all there is to being an evangelist?

The response to the psalm today provides us with a useful summary and starting point for our reflection: Your friends, O Lord, shall make known the glorious splendour of your reign. What is an evangelist? It would seem that before and above all else, the evangelist is a friend of the Lord. We probably know what it is to be and have a friend. But there is one quality of friendship that stands out today: a friend is one who keeps you company, even (especially?) when the going gets tough. Isn’t this what Paul found in Luke in the first reading? Only Luke is with me… And isn’t this what the evangelist, like Paul and the psalmist, finds in the Lord? The Lord stood by me and gave me power... He is close to all who call him, who call on him from their hearts.
This intimate experience of friendship is also an experience of God’s rule (which) lasts from age to age. It provides a basis from which the evangelist makes known the glorious splendour of God’s reign; and in so doing continues to keep company with the divine friend. More than any abstract knowledge, the evangelist makes known what s/he has first experienced, the Lord’s reign in his/her life and heart. Isn’t this the experience of the seventy-two in the gospel today? What is the peace that they are sent to proclaim if not God’s intimate friendship and Lordship in Christ Jesus? And it is out of this experience that they are then empowered to make known and to make real God’s everlasting kingdom over those corners of the earth in which they find themselves.

The Home section of today’s Straits Times carries a half-page article about Ms Mary Matthews, the former executive director of the Samaritans of Singapore, who died on Sunday of lung cancer. The article carries many tributes from various people who benefited from her counseling work. I’m not sure if Ms Matthews actually spoke the name of Jesus to those she helped. But reading the tributes, one gets a distinct sense that here is a true friend of the Lord who, through word, deed and life, made known the glorious splendour of God’s reign.

Indeed the harvest is rich but the labourers are few. How are we being called to be evangelists today?

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