The Beloved Physician
“Embrace Luke, the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14)
Today, my beloved, is a feast and celebration. St. Luke celebrates, one of the stars which enlightens the heaven of our holy Church.
Who was St. Luke? It is not sufficient to hear the name and to celebrate the memory of a Saint. We must know his life, and above all, imitate his virtues. As the holy Chrysostom said: “To celebrate a Saint is to imitate the Saint.” Because of this, let us say a few words about this Saint.
Luke! And his name alone reveals something, it has meaning. The word “Luke”, as philologists say, comes from the Latin root (lux) which means “light”. From this are derived other words as well. For example, “Lyceum” [corresponding to high school in modern Greece], meaning the school that enlightens, and woe if this school does not enlighten but darkens. Lyceum=the school that enlightens, and Luke=enlightened, radiant. He, of course, was not enlightened from the start, for initially he was an idolater. He was born when everyone worshiped idols and made them gods. He was a Greek by lineage. His homeland was Antioch, that great center of Hellenism in the East. That was his life before Christ, until he believed.
His calling was to be a physician (there was at that time a great medical school in Tyre). Furthermore, according to tradition, he had the talent of drawing pictures. Studying medicine, he found himself in Thebes of Viotia, and heard the Apostle Paul, came to know him, believed in Christ, was baptized a Christian, and therefore named Luke—enlightened.
From then on he followed the Apostle Paul. The life of Paul, however, was not like the life of today's priests and bishops, as we partake of silence and general comfort. It was a hard life, with poverty, trials, persecutions, shipwrecks, martyrdom, the cross. How many times was he not cast out, seized, flogged, imprisoned, and stoned (by Judeans and idolaters and Roman emperors)? And ultimately he was beheaded in Rome.
Throughout all of these situations, Luke did not abandon Paul. He remained near him, near him through these events, near him through his afflictions, near him through all the trials, until the end of his life. Among the fellow workers of Paul, Luke takes the greatest place, of whom he writes: “Luke, the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14). He names him “physician”, because he must have been useful to him many times, when the Apostle Paul was sick and had need of medical care.
Luke did not see Christ with his eyes, but he heard of the Lord from those who were “witnesses and servants” of the apostolic preaching (Luke 1:2), and especially from the Apostle Paul. This made a great impression on him, such that he could give a faithful representation of the Lord, and of the apostles and the life of the first Church. He believed deeply, and that which he believed, he preached. And as the Apostle Paul completed his path, Luke fled from Rome. He began to travel and to preach the Gospel of Christ. He circled throughout all of Greece, and finally, he returned to Thebes, where, according to a tradition, he became bishop, and there peacefully gave up his holy soul at the age of 80.
He preached with his tongue, he preached with his life and his example, he preached with his miracles. He will forever preach, however, with his God-inspired writings, and especially his Gospel. Whoever reads the Gospel according to Luke, thinks that he is watching the life of Jesus Christ like a movie. The Gospel of Luke is the sweetest Gospel. It is characterized as the Gospel of love, of forgiveness, of mercy, the Gospel of the compassion of God. One of these is the following:
In the Gospel of Luke is found the story of a sinful woman. She had worked orgies. She knew many men and was corrupted. The supposedly holy people in Israel, the Scribes and Pharisees, cut off communion with her, did not approach her, nor even told her a good morning. This woman one day went to Christ. He did not cast her out. He let her be, and she approached Him, knelt, sprinkled His feet with her tears and with her myrrh, and using her hair has a towel, wiped the spotless feet of the Lord. But because Christ accepted her actions, the others were scandalized. “Oh my, what is she doing?!” they said, “If he were a prophet, he would know who is touching him...” And then Christ said a great saying, which is impossible to measure, and which strikes me so deeply. Listen to what He says: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” (Luke 7:47) In other words, the Scribes and Pharisees did not love Him, the “Learned” of that age did not love Him, the Romans did not love Him. This wretched woman loved Him, and she shed bitter tears of repentance. She sensed the redemption which Christ grants.
The Gospel of Luke is the Gospel of Joy. It begins from the Annunciation of the Theotokos, with the greeting of Gabriel: “Rejoice, O Full-of-Grace...” (Luke 1:28), and proceeds with the Nativity of Christ, and the joyous angelic message: “Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy...” (Luke 2:10), and ends again with the joy of the Apostles when they saw Christ ascending to the heavens: “And they, having worshiped Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52). The Gospel is joy. There is no other true joy anywhere. Joy is Christ. Whoever is tried, approaches, and believes like Luke did, he will see that his sorrow becomes joy, and his darkness, light.
All of us, beloved, are sick—not as much bodily as spiritually—and all of us have need of healing. Because of this, Christ founded His Church, for it to be a hospital for all men. He Himself is “The Physician of our Souls and Bodies” (Divine Liturgy), and He offers healing, medicine and therapy. His fellow workers in this healing work are the chosen men that He called, the Holy Apostles, the Holy Fathers, and the Clergy of today.
Luke was a physician of bodies, who placed his scientific knowledge towards the service of every sick person in pain. However, he himself had need of a physician, the Physician of the Soul. And he found the Physician. He found him in the person of the Apostle Paul, who led him to the hospital of the Church. But the Apostle Paul, before he could offer spiritual healing to Luke, he himself had needed this, which he received walking on the road to Damascus, from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who is the Physician of physicians. In other words, the Apostle Paul and the Evangelist Luke, in the Church of Christ, approached as sick men, and having been healed, with the grace of the Lord, became physicians of the others.
On the feast of the holy physician Luke, I now direct this towards those who share his art.
My beloved physicians, nurses, and all those who serve the sick in any way! No one dishonors the worth of your sacrifice. Everyone knows this and confesses this. But I want to remind you that man is not only a body, he is also a soul. And when you offer healing and therapy to others' bodies, know that you also need healing of your souls. You have a soul that is immortal and beyond all worth; take care of it. You behold the reality daily that this life ends. Work towards your eternal healing. Imitate in this way your protector, St. Luke. Approach with faith the Physician of physicians, and the healer of the whole human existence.
I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercessions of the Evangelist Luke, may always be with you. Amen.
+Bishop Avgoustinos (Metropolitan Augustine Kantiotes of Florina, of blessed memory)
Recorded homily which took place in the Church of the Evangelist Luke in the Hospital of Florina (10/18/1985). (amateur translation of text from source)