St Luke writes his Gospel paullew flickr

Our Rich Liturgical Heritage:

Collect for Dr Luke

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The Right Reverend Dr Peter Brain

Almighty God, who calledst Luke the Physician, whose praise is in the Gospel. To be an Evangelist, and physician of the soul; May it please thee, that, by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed; through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This Collect for St Luke’s Day (18 October) is health giving in every way. Good doctoring depends on the ability to diagnose and then prescribe well-proven medicines that are fit for purpose.

Wholesome medicines of the doctrine have been delivered to us in two volumes by Dr Luke in his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Both are well researched, historical and orderly accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, together with the spread of his gospel under the ministry of the Holy Spirit from Jerusalem to the centre of the Roman Empire. As such, our knowledge of God and his gracious purposes, can be rejoiced in and experienced, as if we were there.

Dr Luke has been universally acclaimed as a historian of note and accuracy. His eyewitness involvement in the life and ministry of the indefatigable apostle Paul, sharing many of his sufferings and standing with him in his final imprisonment fills us with confidence that he is a reliable writer and dispenser of medicines by which the diseases of our souls may be healed. Paul’s testimony from his dungeon in Rome: only Luke is with me show us his medicine to a faithful friend facing death. Famously Mother Teresa of Calcutta when asked what she considered the world’s worst disease replied: ‘not aids, not leprosy or cancer, but loneliness’. Luke is doubly qualified to be a reliable physician of the soul by pointing us in his writings to Jesus, the great physician and by emulating him in his faithfulness under pressure.

Not long before she died the secular humanist Marghanita Laski said: ‘what I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me’. Forgiveness was described by Leslie Weatherhead as ‘the most therapeutic idea in the whole world’. It is Dr Luke who gives us the famous chapter 15 of his gospel culminating with the unforgettable scene of the offended father, not only waiting for his errant son’s return but running, then welcoming him home, to celebrate his return. Luke also records for us the prodigal’s hearty repentance, so necessary for forgiveness and the tragedy of the pharisaic sons unforgiving and loveless heart.

It is Dr Luke who records the double blessing received by the thankful leper. Healed of leprosy, like the other nine, but by making time to return thanks to Jesus received salvation as well. One of the most powerful prescriptions for physical and mental health is gratitude to God. Thankfulness is good medicine, curing us from greed and envy, and the means God uses to grow our contentment and generosity which keep us from idolatry, entitlement thinking and pride. In so doing we are able to expend our energies in serving others for Christ rather than allowing the poisons of playing the victim, bitterness or covetousness which cripple us. Dr Arch Hart comment ‘it is hard to feel envy, greed or bitterness when you’re grateful’ and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s testimony that ‘gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy’ are health-giving: vitamins for our souls.

It is Dr Luke who records the simple word daily to our Lord’s discipleship mandate ‘to deny ourself and take up our cross (daily) and follow him’. It is in the mundane daily round of dying to self where we enjoy living for him. This paradoxical prescription is more health giving than secular medicines defined by self (esteem, image, fulfillment). Finding and defining ourselves in Christ see us daily looking upwards to God and outwards to serving others. Three phrases from Morning Prayer are health giving. The candid self-diagnosis And there is no health in us of the general confession takes us to Christ, of whom Luke records: welcomes sinners… who repent. Hence the request that the healthful Spirit of thy grace might be sent down upon our Bishops, Curates and all congregations committed to their charge and the Collects affirmation whose service is perfect freedom. Riches to sustain us in life, sickness and death that money cannot buy.

Image: Detail from the mosaic frieze in the Lady chapel of Westminster Cathedral, of St Luke. Photo Credit: Lawrence OP -

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