Feast Day of Saint Luke and Non-Feast Day of Demas

Today on the Feast of St. Luke, the Church has set before us, for our consideration, two examples.

Brethren, conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-11, 14-18

The Lord said, “He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” St. Luke 10:16-21

Last week’s gospel of the 4 soils ended with the good soil being explained by Jesus as, “they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Now that is something that none of us really want to hear. That the Christian life, a life of following Christ, requires not only an honest and good heart (which itself is a daily struggle and requires self reflection and confession) but the life in Christ also requires patience. Perseverance. Diligence. Persistence. Suffering. Endurance. Guts. Self-control. Heart.

The first shows us what is necessary to live the Christian life. The second example, shows us what happens when we do not endure. Today is St. Luke’s feast day. The first example is about St. Luke.

Saint Luke

SaintLukeIconSt. Luke’s authorship of one of the canonical gospels and the Acts of the Apostles is rightly regarded as part of the never seriously challenged tradition of the Church. Some Church Fathers have identified Like with Lucius of Cyrene in Acts 13:1. The Church has also accepted this tradition. Which means that Luke was traveling with Cleopas in the Emmaus story in Luke 24. Who was Cleopas? Tradition holds that Cleopas was the brother of Joseph, Mary’s husband, and thus Jesus’ uncle. So Luke and Cleopas were traveling together after the Cross and Death and, unbeknownst to them, Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So there is Dr. Luke walking with Jesus’ uncle at the end and the beginning of things. He was there. He had stayed. He persevered. He endured. Something else you may find interesting is that when you read the Acts of the Apostles Luke uses “we” describing events as an eyewitness. The first “we” is in chapter 16 when Luke joins Paul on his missionary trips. The “we” sections stop when Paul leaves Luke in Philippi. And it appears the Luke was the pastor of the church in Philippi for 9 years from the summer of 49 to the spring of 58. After 9 years the “we” begins again when Paul visits Philippi. Luke shares again Paul’s journeys and was with Paul as he was imprisoned for 2 years and wrote letters to several people and communities including the Colossians.

It is the letter to the Colossians that was chosen today and we hear.. “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.” So, Luke is the first example to us, the example of the one who stayed with Christ all the way. The other example is the other man mentioned to be with Paul.

Demas (No Saint, No Icon)

This Demas we barely hear about. He was a bit player in the Bible. He was a man who showed up for a few verses and then disappeared never to be mentioned again. Demas is mentioned briefly by St. Paul in three of his letters. He was evidently a Greek convert to Christianity and traveled with Paul on his journeys. He apparently stayed close to Paul during his first imprisonment. St. Paul’s prison letters to Philemon and the Colossians both mention Demas by name. We know that St. Paul considered Demas a “fellow worker[1]” among the highest tributes Paul could pay those who served with him. Demas was dear to St. Paul. He stayed with him in dark times. Demas worked and sacrificed for the cause.

But the last word on Demas is not a good one. In prison and awaiting death, St. Paul closes his last letter to Timothy lamenting that many had left him. He says of Demas, “because he loved this world he has deserted me.”[2] Think about this for a second. A man who worked with Paul for almost Paul’s entire ministry, who had labored in the founding of churches, and who make his stand at St. Paul’s first arrest, suddenly turns his back on Paul and on God and walks away. After all the trials he must have endured at Paul’s side, what could have been so powerful to harden the heart of the once faithful Demas?

St. Paul’s reason is cryptically succinct. Demas “loved this world.” Persecution, hardship and imprisonment had forged a friendship, but in the end Paul’s “fellow worker” was undone by love on the world. Demas seems to have been lured away from the apostle’s side by the pleasures and prosperity of the city. Perhaps Demas simply grew tired of poverty, persecution and hardship. Demas stands for all those heartbreaking cases who have begun well, who seem to hold forth much promise of faithfulness to Christ, but drift back again into the empty pleasures and commerce of the world and nothing further is heard of them. This was a great heartbreak to the apostle; he writes these words with a tremendous sense of loss.[3]

There, my brothers and sisters are the two examples before us today. One endured and one didn’t. This can remind us of Peter and of Judas. Both denied, both betrayed. One came back and the other despaired and killed himself. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord who asks for patience, perseverance, endurance and suffering. But Demas could have come back. Peter came back. I came back. I hope that no matter what you have done, where you have gone, what you have gotten yourself into, that you will humble yourself and believe that Jesus is good. And that he will take you back.


[1] Philemon 24

[2] 2 Timothy 4:10

[3] Thanks to Ken Gire for the Demas meditation, the reference is long since lost.

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Filed under Flames of Wisdom, Sundays, Feast Days, Other Days

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