18 October, Tuesday — Being unprepared for the journey

Oct 18 – Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

St. Luke (d. 74) was born to pagan Greek parents, and possibly a slave. He was one of the earliest converts, and a physician studying in Antioch and Tarsus. He probably travelled as a ship’s doctor, and many charitable societies of physicians are named after him. Legend has it that he was also a painter who may have done portraits of Jesus and Mary, but none have ever been correctly or definitively attributed to him; this story, and the inspiration his Gospel has always given artists, led to his patronage of them.

He met St. Paul at Troas and evangelised Greece and Rome with him, being there for the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome, and stayed in Rome for Paul’s two years in prison. He wrote the Gospel According to Luke, much of which was based on the teachings and writings of Paul, interviews with early Christians, and his own experiences. He also wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. He was likely to have been martyred for his faith.

  • Patron Saint Index

2 Tim 4:10–17
Lk 10:1-9

Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals.

Jesus’s instructions to the seventy-two always struck me as unsettlingly brief. My modern-day tendencies to worry and fret make me wonder how the disciples were supposed to cope amid such uncertainty and hostility. Wouldn’t they be safer with at least some personal belongings, and wouldn’t they need some form of spiritual preparation and fortification before they set off? How would they know if they were even ready for such a momentous journey?

But maybe I should be thinking more about the intent underlying the text and my own response to them. Jesus’ words are a call to his disciples (and us) to rely on Him and His grace alone, just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” On another level, perhaps they are also a reminder about the importance of detachment from everything — from our possessions to our achievements — lest we become too attached to what we have, or caught up in our own pride and self-affirmation. These are concepts I understand and agree with, yet find immensely difficult to fully embrace and carry out. 

But the Scriptures are replete with examples of ordinary people called for extraordinary missions at completely unexpected moments. Our Mother Mary is probably the most glorious example, and I was intrigued when I heard that one of the theories for why Joseph wanted to divorce her was because he did believe her account, but thought himself unworthy of being the earthly husband of the Mother of God (which is completely understandable). Even Luke the Evangelist, whose feast we celebrate today, might not have been a likely candidate to write about Jesus, since he didn’t witness His ministry first-hand and was a physician instead of a historian, but he still responded to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, diligently approached his task and eventually completed a large part of the New Testament.

More recently, I am writing this reflection shortly after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, an event which I found profoundly saddening and moving. Amid the onslaught of articles about the Queen’s life, I was struck by the fact that she was not originally the heir to the British crown, and was only bestowed the role when her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated. Although she had the opportunity to grow into her duties, I am sure she still had much to contend with in a period of immense upheaval and was quite inspired to read (here) that she looked constantly to God for guidance and comfort. Perhaps I can learn from these examples of disciples, and countless others, about how our Lord can call us to be apostles in ways we never expected or prepared for. Perhaps I can take heart that He knows and empathises with my struggles, as long as I continue with those struggles and constantly turn back to Him just as they did throughout their lives.    

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jaclyn Lam)

Prayer: Jesus, forgive us for the times we do not trust in Your grace and prefer to go our own ways. Please grant us the humility and wisdom to hear Your call and the courage to respond to it.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for inspiring and sustaining Luke the Evangelist to respond to your prompting and be your disciple in his own way.

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