St Luke, Reredos @ St John the Baptist Parish Church, Epping
Designed by Cecil Hare, associate of George Frederick Bodley, architect of the Church
photo | GC
Today (October 18th) we keep the feast of St Luke, author of the Gospel which bears his name, and of the Acts of the Apostles which continues on from the Gospel. By tradition he is the patron saint of doctors because he was one. St Paul calls him, three times, the ‘beloved physician’. As a doctor he was filled with compassion for those whose lives had met with adversity and who came to him in their need. Not surprisingly, therefore, his Gospel account is regarded as the most compassionate of all four and his interest is in human beings who find in Jesus wholeness and healing. As the commentator of the Jerome Bible commentary says:
“In his compassionate mission to all and by his selection of the Twelve, Jesus laid the foundation for reconstituted Israel. Jesus’ mission is an inclusive one as he seeks out the lost and sinners and restores them to union with God.”
This compassion and inclusivity is something that is passionate to Luke. The human encounters he records between Jesus and the needy are shot through with a deep concern for their well-being. Not surprisingly therefore, Luke has been an inspiration for many in the caring professions and is associated with the Church’s ministry of healing. Healing is much more than helping people to get better from particular illnesses and ailments. It is about becoming ‘whole’ in body, mind and spirit. The spiritual side of healing must never be neglected because, often, it is the key to other forms of healing. I speak as someone who has had three spells in hospital this year. Spiritual well-being is a major part of my healing journey.
Part of that healing is connected with prayer which is why we set so much store by our intercessions for the sick, and why the Church is so attentive to its Healing Ministry. It is a ministry of all the Christian community but especially through hospital and hospice chaplains; spiritual directors and soul-friends who offer the ministry of laying-on-of hands and anointing to bring God’s strength and love to the sick.
Healing is concerned with the wholeness of the soul. This is the ministry of spiritual guidance, which sometimes involves dealing specifically with our sins—the things that cause guilt within us and restlessness in our hearts. The Church’s ministry of reconciliation and penance (what used to be called ‘Confession’ but which didn’t describe the half of it) is also part of healing.
One immediate area of healing is our present situation.
One of the problems arising out of Covid-19 Pandemic is that isolation can lead to mental and spiritual deprivation and anxiety. The prevalence of news being concentrated on the Virus; the world situation because of it; and the political machinations which are accompanying the responses by Governments and others; create uncertainty, fearfulness and in some, depression.
In the face of this, the healing that is expressed in the Gospel, and the healing nature of St. Luke’s version, present us with Jesus who is, ultimately, the real Healer. What better place to discover this healing than the Gospel of St Luke, the ‘beloved physician’ of the soul.
In his version of telling the story of God’s love in Jesus, St. Luke opens to us the ‘wholesome medicine of the Gospel’.
Almighty God, who inspired Luke the physician
to proclaim the love and healing power of your Son,
give your Church, by the grace of the Spirit
and the medicine of the gospel,
the same love and power to heal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.