The next time you are tempted to think that one person cannot make much of a difference, consider:
One man singlehandedly wrote a quarter of the New Testament. His is a two-volume work; the first a detailed gospel and the second the only account we have of how the Church developed in her earliest years.
His gospel is packed with rich, unique characters: Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist, Simeon and Anna in the Temple, the penitent woman who washes the feet of Jesus with her hair, the widow of Nain, the ten lepers, the good thief, and the travelers on the road to Emmaus. Women are accorded an unheard-of place of honor. First and foremost is his mother; told by the angel that she is to be mother of the Son of God, Mary is the only person to appear at his birth, his death, and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. Other prominent women featured include Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary, and those who supported his ministry out of their own resources.
He also uniquely portrays our Lord. Son of God and son of Adam, Jesus has a special compassion for the poor, the outcast, and the sick, and an equally special dislike of Herod. His Jesus is also kinder and more compassionate to his family and the Apostles than either Mark or Matthew; the family are those who hear the word of God and do it and the Apostles have his prayers, even at the Last Supper for Peter, who he knows will deny him. In his passion Jesus agonizes to the point of blood yet still has the presence of mind to heal a servant’s ear. Most movingly, on the cross he forgives his persecutors and promises the good thief Paradise. Finally, after his resurrection he appears on the road to Emmaus and stuns back to life the faithfulness of those two downhearted disciples who failed to recognize him until the breaking of the bread.
Apart from these unique characters and perspective, the evangelist has a wonderful sense of story. He made sure to include some of our Lord’s most memorable parables: The lowly guest, the great banquet of the king, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the unjust steward, Lazarus and the rich man, the Good Samaritan, and of course the Prodigal Son. More than that, he crafted in beautiful prose the vignettes that form many mysteries of the holy Rosary (including much of the Hail Mary prayer itself): the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation, the finding of Jesus in the Temple, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. His mastery of Greek, unparalleled in the Scriptures, is on full display in such prayers as the Benedictus of Zechariah, the Magnificat of Mary, and the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon. Every day around the world, millions of people recite these – probably from memory – as part of the Divine Office of the Church.
As if all this weren’t enough, this same man then goes on to give us yet more of what no one else has: the story of the early Church. From Pentecost on he tells the amazing story of the spread of the gospel throughout Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth – including Rome. In sometimes intimate detail he gives us both the beginning of St. Peter’s ministry and virtually all of St. Paul’s, writing the story at times as a fellow traveler, from Paul’s mystical encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, through his victories and failures in ministry, all the way to his ultimate destination, the seat of the Empire – Rome.
Overall, the span of his work is breathtaking; it is a complete narrative that stretches from before Christ’s birth, through his ministry, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension all the way into the development and growth of the early Church.
There is much more we could say on this, the day we remember him, but it would only belabor the point, which is that none of his work would have been possible unless this man had given himself completely over to the will of the Father, in devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ, through the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But he did, and this masterpiece was the result.
Remember the power of one; not one person alone but one who has conformed himself to being in union with the will of God. There is a plan and we all have a part to play in it. So let us each take the time to meditate on how God is calling us, then submit to his will and do it. This is what changes the world.
St. Luke, pray for us.