First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6

A Light To the Nations

1 Listen, islands, to me; and listen, you peoples, from far: YHWH has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name: 2 and he has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand, he has hidden me: and he has made me a polished shaft; in his quiver has he kept me close: 3 and he said to me, “You are my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 4 But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with YHWH, and my reward with my God.”

5 Now says YHWH who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered to him (for I am honorable in the eyes of YHWH, and my God has become my strength); 6 yes, he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the nations, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.”

World English Bible

These verses come from the so-called "Servant Songs" of Second Isaiah. The author wrote these verses during waning days of the Babylonian exile. Persia was on the rise and the conquest of Babylon was immanent. Despite the possibility of return, the exiled Jews lived in a city not their own, and among a strange people.

In this new environment, Jews faced a crisis of faith. What sort of God did they worship? Before the exile, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was only one God among many, but he was the only God that mattered for the Jews. Now, Jews, as a minority in a foreign city, had to face strange gods head on. Their response was simple. Theirs was the only God. All other gods were not only false. They really didn't exist. Many scholars believe this answer was the birth of Jewish monotheism.

But, this view also gave the Jews a new responsibility. They had the duty to "enlighten" the nations to the true identity and mission of God.

The call of the Servant summed up this new duty. God called his Servant. And, God gave his Servant two commands: 1) gather the Diaspora back to the land of Israel, and 2) be a light to the nations.

Christians believe Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled this call. He was the Servant. Faith in him gathers the faithful together. And makes them like he is, a light to the nations!

How is Christ your light? How can you bring his light to others?