Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The “beloved physician,” Luke (Co. 4:5-9, 14, 18), is front and center today on this, his feast day. We know him as one of the four Evangelists. What he does using words regarding our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, he accomplishes equally as the first iconographer, according to tradition. With the other Evangelists, primarily Matthew and Mark, St. Luke’s Gospel shares a wealth of material found in those Holy Gospels as well, thus earning them the phrase of “the synoptic Gospels” for this very reason. Like each of his compatriots, Luke strives to present Jesus Christ from his own perspective as an Evangelist all the while remaining faithful to the Holy Tradition delivered and entrusted (Lk. 1:1-4). If we have taken the time to read his Holy Gospel (which I hope all of us have done and still do), we have discovered that without the beloved physician’s perspective, we would not have that most adored and most beloved iconic account of the Nativity of our Lord according to the flesh, His circumcision and naming, and His presentation in the Temple (Lk. 2:1-38). We would not hear about His banter with the learned elders in the Temple while His parents searched for Him for three days (Lk. 2:39-52) nor would we have that wonderful account of the Archangel’s annunciation to the Blessed Virgin or her response of humble praise known as the Magnificat at the greeting of Elizabeth (Lk. 1:26-56). Without Luke’s pen, we would be deprived of these treasured stories, along with his account of the Forerunner’s conception and nativity by his parents, well advanced in years and beyond childbearing (Lk. 1:5-25). The world would indeed be a bleaker place without all of those glorious Christmass carols inspired by the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. Where would the Church be without his preservation of such stories and parables like that of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31), the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37), the infamous tax collector, Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:1-10), the publican and the pharisee (Lk. 18:9-14), the importunate widow who wouldn’t be denied her request (Lk. 18:1-8), the lost and found parables, especially that of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:1-32), the delightful contrast of the sisters, Mary and Martha (Lk. 10:38-42)? We wouldn’t know that the Kingdom of God dwells within each and every one of us who believe and is among us in the Church (Lk. 17:20-21).
Did you know that in one tradition held by the Church that Luke is the purported nameless companion of Cleopas on the road to Emmaus, a story only recorded by St. Luke (Lk. 24:13-35)? And, of course, how can we forget the Book of Acts, Luke’s sequel to his Gospel? Without it we would be nearly blind as to the early years of the neophyte Church! Without St. Luke we wouldn’t be aware that our Lord called Seventy other disciples, unaccounted for in the other Evangelists. It is St. Luke alone who notes their supporting presence, along with and surrounding the original Twelve, called by Jesus to the same mission as the core Apostles (Lk. 10:1-16). Luke, according to a tradition, is numbered among those Seventy, along with a number of other names we may be well acquainted with like Timothy and Titus, Barnabas and Silas, Philemon and Onesimus, Linus (a future Bishop of Rome) and Mark the Evangelist, to name but a few. Without Luke we would not be as enriched as we are today. So, if you’re looking for a moral to the story, one might be: never undervalue or underestimate your faith and your witness to your faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other person like you created by the hand of the original Iconographer Who fashioned and made man to bear the image [icon] of His divine nature (Gn. 1:26-27; WS 2:23)!
It is with the return of the Seventy, then, that we pick up with in today’s Gospel. Our Lord has sent them on an apostolic mission to bear Him witness. They are front men, sent in advance of our Lord Who was coming to the very towns and cities they were dispatched to. Like the Baptist and Forerunner, they are to prepare the way of the Lord and to make ready those towns and cities and their populace for Jesus Christ (Lk. 3:1-20). They’re message is Jesus’ message and they are to do what He does. In fact, Jesus clearly says that anyone who hears them hears Jesus, and anyone who rejects them rejects Jesus. Indeed, anyone who rejects them not only is guilty of rejecting Jesus (for Jesus and His Church are inseparable), but they are equally guilty of rejecting God the Father Who sent His only-begotten Son into the world, not to condemn it but to save it (Jn. 3:16-17). “For us men and for our salvation [He] came down from Heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became Man” (Nicene Creed). In light of this, beloved, we stand assured that when we preach and teach faithfully and obediently what we ourselves have only received as beggars from the Apostles, our faith and our morals – our witness to the saving Gospel – is consistent with the Church of every time and every place (Vincent of Lerins; Irenaeus of Lyons; Athanasius the Great; Gregory of Nyssa). Those who receive the Church embrace the Church’s Lord God and Master as Saviour, and those who do not, reject, not only Jesus Christ, but His Father as well! For we cannot have God as our Father if we do not have His Church as our Mother or, by extension, His Son as our Brother (Cyprian of Carthage). “’He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him Who sent Me.’”
The Seventy return to report back to Jesus, as the story indicates. They are psyched . . . . . pumped up from their experience. They’re exhilarated, elated, and intoxicated by their success. They accomplished more than they anticipated or maybe even expected knowing full well that Jesus was sending them out like lambs among the wolves (Lk. 10:3). They are aglow, spiritually alive and enthused, not unlike many of us apprentices in the Faith when we first come into Holy Orthodoxy. We sing like never before, “We have seen the true Light. We have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the true Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity Who has saved us” (Post-Communion Troparion). In fact, the Seventy discovered (one wonders if by accident or by consequence of the Gospel proclamation), “’Lord, even the demons are subject unto us through Thy Name.’”
This is not some sort of secret formula or secret knowledge only the few elite disciples of Jesus know and use against the powers of sin, death, and the devil. It is instead the result of the Church’s proclamation and faithful witness by worship and prayer of the invasion of the Kingdom of God through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit! As the Church called by her Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ faithfully worships and prays, she, in turn, evangelizes and catechizes. As she faithfully and obediently enfleshes the Faith of her incarnate God in her words and her actions bearing the holy Name itself, Satan and all of his bodiless diabolical hosts fall like lightening from Heaven. The devil’s reign is disrupted, and his house ransacked! Do not underestimate or undervalue what we do here, beloved, in the holy Name of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Mt. 18:18-20)! Here in this sacred assembly of the baptized centered in the Gospel of God’s Kingdom and the Holy Eucharist, the kingdom of darkness is being undermined. The light of Jesus Christ the Son of God pierces its thick delusion, driving back the hordes of demons hellbent on our destruction! But, we cannot – nor ever should – take or assume credit or overestimate ourselves. Our glory, if we are to glory, is in the Cross of the Crucified One Whose holy Passion has put the devil to flight and neutered his minions (1 Cr. 2:1-5; Ga. 6:14-15). The blood of the Lamb of God, slain and risen from the dead, is the antidote that remedies their poisonous venom. Yes, Jesus says, I have given you, My Church, My baptized brothers and sisters, authority over all of these hellish forces (Mk. 16:17-18). When they rear their ugly, godless heads (as surely they will), be not afraid, “’for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom’” (Lk. 12:32).
“’Nevertheless,’” Jesus says to them and to us to temper our spiritual enthusiasm and to put all things in divine perspective, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.’” Ah, there it is: by humility we conquer; by humility the Kingdom is ours. Focus not on the frenzy and fleeting, but stay focused on that which is sure and firm. All of our initial enthusiasm of coming into the Faith is not the Faith, however. Rejoice not in that spiritual power, not in the spiritual successes, not in the charismatic outpourings of the Holy Spirit. But rather “’rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.’” Rejoice, that God’s grace and mercy has found you, as sinful as you are, and has opened up the door of Paradise even to you. Rejoice, that you who are but mere babes in the eyes of the elite and sophisticated world, rejoice that God has revealed to you His Kingdom. It is the fishermen Christ God has revealed as most wise (Great and Holy Pentecost Troparion). Hear, again, what we lauded earlier:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. . . . Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven; . . . .’ (Beatitudes).
In all of these things, beloved, rejoice! Rejoice, that our Father in Heaven has confounded the worldly wise by the Cross of His Son and has made known to us obtuse little ones His wisdom found in His Kingdom (Mt. 11:25-27; 1 Cr. 1:18-2:16). Rejoice, that Jesus our Saviour and our God has shown us the true Light and has led us to the true Faith and has not held our sins against us. Rejoice, that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to children, that is, to all who become as a child, as our Lord says, who humbly submit to God in repentance “’for of such,’” Jesus declares, “’is the Kingdom of Heaven’” (Mt. 18:1-5; 19:13-15; Lk. 18:15-17). Rejoice, for so it seems good in the sight of the God of Heaven and of earth.
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
Co. 4:5-9, 14, 18