MOST REV. DAVID J. BONNAR
Bishop of Youngstown
This is Bishop Bonnar’s October 18, 2022 homily for the National Gathering and Townhall for Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services at Saint Columba Cathedral in Youngstown, Ohio. Learn more about Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services of the Diocese of Youngstown at doy.org/cemeteries.
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Luke, the Evangelist to whom the Gospel of Luke is attributed. When someone once asked another to recommend a good book on the life of Christ, the person responded by saying, “Have you tried the one that Luke wrote?” Many Scripture scholars hold that this book is the best of the four gospels.
It is believed that Luke was a physician and companion of Saint Paul. The Acts of the Apostles are often attributed to him. Luke is the patron of the medical profession, painters, artists, sculptors, and butchers.
Even though Luke is not considered to be a patron for cemetery workers, his Gospel embodies qualities that are integral for every cemetery worker. In fact, there are four qualities I wish to highlight today.
First, the Gospel of Luke is often referred to as the Gospel of prayer because time and again we encounter Jesus praying. At what is the most difficult time in life, a time of letting go of loved ones, cemetery workers accompany those who are grieving and pray with and for them. It is not so much the words as it is the presence.
Second, the Gospel of Luke is often called the Gospel of the poor and marginalized. Jesus goes to the peripheries to help those in need. Luke’s Gospel is the only one that tells the parable of the Rich Man and Poor Man. When it comes to the Beatitudes, unlike Matthew who has Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Luke has Jesus saying, “Blessed are you poor.” Cemetery workers often walk with the poor who have experienced great loss. Their poverty comes from loss.
Third, the Gospel of Luke is known as the Gospel of mercy. Throughout the gospel, Luke shows Jesus reaching out to outcasts and befriending sinners. Cemetery workers are called every day to be bearers of God’s mercy.
Finally, the Gospel of Luke is often viewed as the universal Gospel or the Gospel of all. No one is excluded from the love of Jesus, not even Samaritans or foreigners. Every cemetery worker is called to embrace all without discrimination or prejudice.
The Opening Prayer, otherwise known as the Collect, integrates these features of Luke. Moments ago, we prayed these words, “Lord God, who chose Saint Luke to reveal by his preaching and writings the mystery of your love for the poor, grant that those who already glory in your name may persevere as one heart and one soul and that all nations may merit to see your salvation.”
My brothers and sisters, we too have been chosen to reveal, by our work and ministry, God’s love for the poor, especially those experiencing the poverty of loss and grief.