The reading is from the Catholic lectionary for daily mass, while the headline is meant to keep my thinking real:
Luke 1:67-79J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
67-75 Then Zacharias, his father, filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking like a prophet, said, “Blessings on the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has turned his face towards his people and has set them free! And he has raised up for us a standard of salvation in his servant David’s house! Long, long ago, through the words of his holy prophets, he promised to do this for us, so that we should be safe from our enemies and secure from all who hate us. So does he continue the mercy he showed to our forefathers. So does he remember the holy agreement he made with them and the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to make us this gift: that we should be saved from the hands of our enemies, and in his presence should serve him unafraid in holiness and righteousness all our lives.
76-79 “And you, little child, will be called the prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for his coming. It will be for you to give his people knowledge of their salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because the heart of our God is full of mercy towards us, the first light of Heaven shall come to visit us—to shine on those who lie in darkness and under the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
This is the prophecy Luke gives to Zacharias for his son John. It expresses Israel’s hope of a Davidic Messiah and also the conviction that the time of God’s rescue of his people is at hand. The most interesting thing about this, is that the prophecy is not fulfilled by Jesus, at least not in any literal sense; he did not free his people from foreign domination, nor usher in an era of peace and prosperity. Luke wants his readers to see the contrast between the traditional expectation of a Messiah and Jesus Messiah, whose people gave him nul points as a political leader and instead handed him over to their enemies for execution.
The words describing John’s mission bring the reader close to the content of Jesus mission also. “salvation through forgiveness of sin……heart of God is full of mercy….. the light of heaven to shine on those who lie in darkness and death”- these proclaim the good news of God’s rescuing justice.
In a quiet way Luke shows in this passage that Jesus obeys no national agenda and will disappoint those who want him to do so, because the gifts he brings are from God and for all people, guiding them into the path of peace.
This year I voted for the independence of my own nation, Scotland, believing that this would provide justice and fruitfulness for its people. I didn’t think that my action was prescribed by my faith and was glad that no church leaders tried to identify the cause of independence with the cause of Jesus. There are situations of systematic injustice and deprivation where faith in Jesus demands a political stance; and It’s also true that my own democratic choices are influenced by my faith; but I would never deny that different choices can rightly be made by other believers. Jesus’ refusal of an obvious political role does not mean that believers should not accept one, but rather that there should be no public identification of Jesus with a political party, even in situations where most believers have declared support for specific political aims.
Jesus’ rejection of violent rebellion against Rome was a rejection of all violence, including that of Rome. His gift was to “lead people into the path of peace.” I believe that in all political issues, disciples of Jesus should reject all violence. In that way they may reflect the “first light of Heaven”.