You might be expecting me to write about the Magnificat, as I have often done in the past (e.g. see here) or about evangelisation, the medical profession, painting or women-in-the-gospel, all of which are fairly predictable themes for this feast day; but what struck me forcibly this morning was, what would St Luke write about if he were alive on earth today? In one way, I think his subject would be unchanged: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. But I think there might also be a fairly devastating critique of the way in which we Christians live and proclaim our faith. Do we truly believe what we say we believe? Do we want to share the Good News with others? Or are we so very British and diffident that we find enthusiasm (literally, being filled with God) in rather poor taste?
This morning, somewhere in Pakistan, Asia Bibi is living with the knowledge that she has been condemned to death by hanging because she refused to convert to Islam when accused under the country’s blasphemy laws. Reports of the case suggest a squabble on the fruit farm which got out of hand. A cup of cold water (how biblical is that!), tempers fraying, an escalation of words on both sides and then a life imperilled. Two politicians who spoke in defence of Asia Bibi have already been murdered and the Government of Pakistan is now in the ‘difficult’ position of upholding a verdict many see as unjust. The trouble is, governments do not care as much about justice as they say they do; and unless some face-saving formula can be found, Asia Bibi will surely die.
What would St Luke make of that? I think he would applaud Asia Bibi for her steadfastness of purpose and condemn the Pakistani government and judiciary for their cowardice and political chicanery. But I suspect his severest words would be for those of us in the West who do nothing more than wring our hands, metaphorically speaking, in the face of such outrages. We are too concerned about upsetting other nations, unless there is some economic advantage to be had. We have become lukewarm in our faith, preferring our domestic disputes about marriage and divorce, liturgy and practice, even, at times, the cut of our vestments, to the life and death issues faced by our brothers and sisters in less comfortable parts of the world. Praying the Magnificat in the light of what Asia Bibi faces is an unsettling experience. I suspect that is exactly what most of us need: a shake-up by the Holy Spirit. The questions posed by St Luke in his gospel are just as relevant today as they were in the first century. Answering them is just as difficult, too.