“Arise, shine out Jerusalem, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you, though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples.” The poetry of the Prophet Isaiah describes salvation as a journey from darkness into light. His words were addressed to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, recently returned from the exile that had been their darkest night. They were full of hope, confident that the God of Israel had not abandoned his promise, that he continued to lead them into the light.
The prophet went further. Filled with the hope of dawning salvation, the people themselves would grow radiant, their hearts throbbing and full. The City of Jerusalem, rejuvenated in faith and hope, would become a sign of God’s presence. “Lift up your eyes and look round: all are assembling and coming towards you.”
Like the Jerusalem of Isaiah’s generation, we are called to the dawning light of salvation. At all times, and especially in this Year of Faith, we should so live our lives that the whole world is drawn to Christ, the true light that the darkness could not overcome.
On the feast of the Epiphany we celebrate the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy in the birth of Christ. The pilgrimage of the Wise men from the East represents a call to faith that reaches out to the whole world. Pope Benedict describes the Magi as men of hope and seekers after truth who, in every generation, have been on the look-out for the true star of salvation.
There is a restlessness at the heart of our humanity that is always searching for fulfilment. It is a restlessness that drives our lives and can bring our lives to the light of Christ. In following the star, the Wise Men pursued that universal longing of the heart, refusing to be
led astray until they came to Jerusalem. There they made further inquiries. “Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star and have come to do him homage.”
Their patient inquiry was answered in the words of the scriptures. According to the Prophet Baruch, the Christ would be born in Bethlehem, for out of her would come the leader who would shepherd Israel.
God’s revelation, expressed in the scriptures, comes to meet us in our restless longing. During this Year of Faith, we, like the Magi, should search for the truth and, in praying the scriptures, know the joy of coming into the presence of Christ. “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.”
There was a stark contrast between the reaction of the Magi and that of Herod and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. “When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem.”
When our lives are open to the presence of God, we, like the Magi coming into the presence of Christ, shall be filled with delight. When our lives are turned in on ourselves, we, with Herod and Jerusalem, shall find his presence disturbing.
It is in prayer that the Spirit helps us to read our hearts. There will be much in our lives that brings disturbance. Such disturbance is frequently calling us to healing and forgiveness. Then the Spirit leads us into the joy of Christ’s presence.