“Arise, shine out Jerusalem, for your light has come, though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples.” The concluding chapters of the Book of Isaiah raise us above the tragedies and disappointments of a violent history. A people seemingly abandoned to the inner darkness of fading faith were called to a light that would transform the world.
“Above you the Lord now rises, and above you his glory appears. At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart throbbing and full.” Isaiah’s vision of future salvation was not for Israel alone. This dawning light, the presence of God with his people, would reach out to all the nations. The darkness that had confused the nations, setting them against each other, would be banished. All would be attracted to this Light.
“The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness. Lift up your eyes and look round: all are assembling and coming toward you, your sons from far away and daughters being tenderly carried.” Every generation experiences its own particular darkness. At the present time we live under the shadow of uncertain times and declining prospects for the future. The gloom of the financial crisis is already eroding the trust that safeguards the well-being of our society. Many are losing confidence in themselves and a world that once seemed so secure. They fear what this darkness might bring.
St Paul, the Apostle to the nations, experienced Christ as a mystery once hidden but now revealed in the flesh and blood of Christ, in his living and dying, his rising to new life. Here was the Light so vividly foretold in the vision of Isaiah, a light that drives out the darkness of sin. Like the prophet Isaiah, Paul understood the Mystery of Christ as a Light that would unite the longings of a divided society. In Christ all would come to understand that they share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, united in the promise that is Christ himself.
Paul could scarcely express the wonder of Christ’s coming, this Light he longed to share with all peoples. St Matthew expressed the same truth through the pilgrimage of
the Wise Men from the East. “Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.”
The Wise Men represent the longing and searching of every heart, especially those who feel that their lives are far removed from any meaning and purpose. The magi followed a dawning star until its light brought them to Bethlehem. “The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees, they did him homage.”
Our lives, like those of the Wise Men, are a search for meaning and purpose. Christ is that Light, which however dim and distant at its dawning longs to fill our lives with its joy. This Light seeks to guide our lives in good times and bad. At times it may well seem scarcely discernible, a distant point on a far horizon. If we are faithful to this light it will grow in our hearts, bringing us to the very presence of God himself.
The darkness of present uncertainties can never overwhelm the Light that is Christ himself. Let us become to each other the light that leads to Christ.