Who was Theophilus?

When parents bring their children for baptism, the first thing in the ceremony that the priest or deacon asks them is, “What name have you given to your child?” Parents select the names they bestow on their children for a host of reasons: family tradition, personal meaning, a connection to admired individuals, the beauty of how it sounds, or a name’s particular meaning are but a few.

Scripture scholars are divided on whether the person named at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel is a particular individual, or whether he stands for all those who would hear the story of Jesus. His name, Theophilus, means one who loves God, so the name could just as likely be allegorical as actual. In any event, the story of Jesus that Luke organized and wrote is directed toward someone whose very name suggests a connection to the divine. The good news of Jesus is intended for one who loves God.

No matter what our first name actually means, as a son or daughter of God in baptism, we are all “Theophilus,” that is, lovers of God. The story of Jesus—the welcome he gives to the poor and the outcast, the Spirit that is poured out on him and on his followers, the journey to Jerusalem where the fulfillment of the Father’s will is accomplished—is our story. So as we listen to the Gospel from Luke in the year ahead, let us pray that we grow in our love of God, who calls us all by name.

©2012 Liturgical Publications Inc