HOMILY FOR MASS FOR THE FEAST OF ST. LUKE THE EVANGELIST - Warrane College Chapel, University of New South Wales

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP,
18 Oct 2017

Warrane College Chapel, University of New South Wales

Most of what we know about St Luke comes from the New Testament. He was a Greek-speaking disciple of St Paul and his companion in mission: in fact, he was one of the few people who could long abide Paul's rather difficult personality. As was hinted at in our First Reading, Crescens and even Titus had given up on Paul (2Tim 4:10), as had Timothy and Silas before them (Acts 17:14-18), and Barnabas and John Mark even earlier (Acts 13:13; 15:38-40). Some, such as Tychicus and Onesimus, Paul sent away himself. But Demas, Paul insists, abandoned him not because of any personality conflict but out of simple worldliness (2Tim 4:10). Only Luke was faithful to the end…

The same Luke wrote the Gospel of that name and its sequel, The Acts of the Apostles, and so more than a quarter of the New Testament. It would seem he was highly talented: an iconographer (of which art he is Patron saint alongside Fra Angelico), an historian (of which science he is Patron alongside the Venerable Bede), and a medical doctor (of which craft he is guide with Cosmas and Damian). Of the several miraculous icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary attributed to St Luke, I've seen three so far - in Rome (Salus Populi Romani), Częstochowa (Black Madonna of Jasna Góra) and Madras (Madonna of St Thomas Mount) - but I still hope to view the rest… Luke's historical interest is evident in the way he frames his two volumes, his eye to dates, places and other details of Our Lord's life, and the documentation of Jesus' sermons and best-loved parables. Luke is called "the beloved physician" by Paul (Col 4:14) and his Gospel has the most medical detail and depicts Jesus as a "physician" of bodies and souls (Lk 4:23); with the euthanasia debate beginning today in the Victorian parliament, we might pray to him for reverence for life in our land and wisdom for our political leaders. And you might say this all-rounder is a patron for almost all the disciplines you guys are studying at university!

What Luke especially observed, diagnosed and painted, at least in words, was Christ's special compassion for and inclusiveness of the little ones: women, children, sinners and the poor. Take the poor… Luke's Jesus declares Himself anointed to bring Good News to the poor (4:18-19; 7:22), as are our Catholic schools. He says that the poor, hungry and oppressed are the Blessed ones in His kingdom, but the rich and sated accursed (6:20-25), that where our treasure is there also is our heart (12:33-34), that we cannot serve both God and mammon (16:13-14), that camels go through the eyes of needles more easily than rich men enter heaven (18:24-27), that a poor woman's mite is worth more than the measured charity of wealthy benefactors (21:1-4) and that we should invite the poor and outcast to the table (14:13-14,21). Though he's patron of several professions, merchant bankers and investment brokers aren't amongst them!

Another category of God's favourites that feature in Luke's Gospel especially are young people. It's from Luke's Gospel that we learn most of what we know about Jesus' infancy: his are the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. The infant John the Baptist also features (Lk ch 1) and people bring little children to Jesus to bless them (18:15-17). It is through Luke that we meet the young man that is the widow of Nain's only son (7:11-17), the girl who is Jarius' daughter (8:40-56), both of whom Jesus raise from death, and the youth He liberates from a demon (9:37-43).

Multi-disciplined, keenly aware of those "on the peripheries" to whom Christ and Christians are sent, a last thing we might note about Luke was his special interest in the experience and action of the Holy Spirit - both in the life of Jesus and in that of the early Church. The Spirit is crucial at the conception of each, their infancy and growth, words and sacraments, signs and wonders…

Luke's two volume story continues tonight, and every day in each one of you. Like Luke you are a highly talented, professional and generous group of young men. Some of you have a passion for God and compassion for God's favourites, the little ones, and you want to ensure that the story of Christ and His Church continues to be told, and that the Holy Spirit continues to inspire. Others of you are yet to catch that bug, or as fully, but I hope you will. Like the seventy-two in our Gospel passage (Lk 10:1-9), you are sent out as labourers for the harvest and - given some recent controversies around marriage and sexuality, life issues and religious liberty - perhaps as lambs amongst wolves as well! But that might seem too big a thing to ask of you…

I'm reminded here of the 2006 German film Das Leben der Anderen or, as it's more usually known in English, The Lives of Others. Its context is the oppressive East German state before the fall of the Berlin Wall, in which the Stasi or secret police monitored every aspect of people's lives, trying to root out all dissent. It tells the story of a legendary Stasi Captain, Gerd Wiesler, who is tasked with spying on and proving the treason of a playwright. Over time, Wiesler comes to sympathise with his prey. Yet faced with such an omnipotent and oppressive regime we might not have blamed him for despairing of doing anything. Yet instead of shrugging his shoulders with an empty "What can I do?", he makes a resolved, "I do what I can". He falsifies surveillance reports to allow the playwright to escape arrest, suffers demotion because of it and great risk to his own safety.

This is the message for you too: your story - and the whole human story - isn't usually played out in the grand gestures, the big events, though of course these are important. Most of life is lived in the cracks in-between, the everyday moments, when we choose to act with compassion, courage and hope. As the Second Vatican Council taught, we are all called to "live a willing, noble and enthusiastic response to the voice of Christ, who at this hour is summoning [us] more pressingly, and to the urging of the Holy Spirit."1 "The younger generation," the Council continued, "should feel this call to be addressed in a special way to themselves; they should welcome it eagerly and generously."2 If St Luke and his generation wrote volumes one and two, it is for the generations since - for us - to write volume three with our lives. And so, as I send you out tonight into the rich field of harvest, I bid you write that volume well.


Warrane College Chapel, University of New South Wales

It's a great pleasure to join you for Mass and Dinner on this feast of St. Luke. Thank you all for your welcome.

I acknowledge Fr Iñigo Martinez, Regional Vicar of Opus Dei for Australia and New Zealand, Fr Matthew Bloomer, Chaplain of Warrane, Dr. Gerald Fogarty, Master, Mr Ron Crowe, Chair of the College Council, Prof Tony Shannon AM, Honorary Fellow, and Dean Arthur Escamilla, and all other staff members and residents of the College.


1 Second Vatican Council, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 33

2 Ibid.