Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Friday, October 23, 2015

St. James of Jerusalem- 23 October

On many Christian calendars including some Anglican calendars, October 23 is the Feast of St. James of Jerusalem. Of course, there are several men named James (Jacob in most ancient and modern languages) mentioned in the New Testament. Two of the Twelve had the name, but James of Jerusalem is another person. He is also known as James the Just and James the brother of our Lord. Exactly what "brother" means has been subject to debate. Perhaps James was an older son of St. Joseph, or perhaps in Semitic usage, brother was used to refer to a first cousin. In any case, from a human perspective, this James was considered a close relative of Christ.

During our Lord's earthly ministry, James was sceptical about Christ's ministry, but after the Resurrection, he saw the risen Lord and became an apostolic figure (somewhat like St. Paul later).
St. James seems to have been noted for his sincere obedience to the Jewish Law and his personal piety. He became a missionary among pious Jews, and as the other apostles dispersed from Jerusalem, he became Bishop of the local Christian community. In Acts 15, he presided over an apostolic council that considered the mission to the Gentiles, and in his concluding address, showed both a concern for Jewish sensitivities and an openness to God's work among non-Jews. James also wrote the Epistle with his name which stressed that sincere faith must produce fruit. Late in his life, extreme Jewish revolutionaries decided that James' Christianity was a threat to their agenda and murdered him in a mob action.

St. James exemplifies several important traits for us. He turns from his early scepticism and converts to the risen Christ. In this way, he discovers his new mission in life. James is an example of personal piety who embodies his Christian faith in a virtuous life. At the apostolic council, he also shows that it is possible to combine personal rigor with mercy toward those who serve Christ in a different way. Finally, St. James shows the courage and sincerity of faith by suffering martyrdom from those he wanted to bring to Christ.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

St. Luke- 18 October

This year the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist falls on a Sunday. Since this is a major feast on traditional prayer book calendars, it takes liturgical precedence over the 20th Sunday after Trinity.

Luke was a Gentile Christian, maybe from Antioch in Syria. He was a friend of St. Paul, and he was a physician (Colossians 4:14). In the Book of Acts, he was with Paul at Philippi in Macedonia, and a few years later went with Paul to Jerusalem. When Paul was arrested by the Romans, Luke staid near him in Palestine, and later went with him to Rome. He was a faithful companion who stayed with Paul when other friends went in different directions (2 Timothy 4:11).

Luke wrote a large portion of the New Testament, a two-volume work comprising the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He was  probably the only Gentile Christian among the New Testament writers. Luke seems to have been well-educated. He had a classic Greek style and seemed to be a reasonable thinker who made special effort to learn and organize historical truth.

The character of Luke may be reflected by some of the emphases of his Gospel. The Gospel according to St Luke has been called the Gospel of Mercy. Luke emphasizes Jesus' compassion and patience with sinners and the suffering. He shows concern for Samaritans, lepers, tax collectors, soldiers, public sinners, uneducated shepherds, and the poor. 

Today we remember and give thanks for St. Luke, and we hope to follow some of his good qualities. Like him, may we be characterized by dedication to truth, loyalty to Christian friends, and compassion for all- especially, the weak, the poor, and the sick.