First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6
The Rising Light
1 “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of YHWH is risen on you. 2 For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples; but YHWH will arise on you, and his glory shall be seen on you. 3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
4 “Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather themselves together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms. 5 Then you shall see and be radiant, and your heart shall thrill and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 6 The multitude of camels shall cover you, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praises of YHWH.
World English Bible
This reading is found in the so-called "Third Isaiah" (chapters 56-66). Most Catholic biblical scholars agree that the book of Isaiah can be divided into at least two separate units (chapters 1-39 for the prophet Isaiah; 40+ for "Second Isaiah"). Scholars divide the book based upon language, writing style, and historical events mentioned in the text. While these scholars feel confident delineating the text into two units, they are more uncertain subdividing chapters 40-66.
Third Isaiah discussed ritual, Sabbath, and the Torah. But chapters 60-62 stood out with their optimism. Many scholars who accept the "Third Isaiah" thesis claim these chapters were written in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (fifth century B.C.) when the zeal of the returned exiles had worn off. Locals now lived as subjects under foreign powers. Rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple had become tedious. So, the people needed a pep talk.
In such a dark world, a light would shine! The glory of the Lord! The world would be dark, just like in the primordial beginning. Only the light of the Lord among his people would show the way. [60:1-2]
Suddenly, the focus of the light shifted to the people (or a remnant among the people). Their rising (like the sun rising) would cast light to those in the darkness and would lead them forth, even the exiled faithful living in the Diaspora. [60:3-4]
With the rising of the people would come reputation (glory) and great wealth. The riches of the great nations would flow to the nation. The people would have even power over the sea! [60:5-6]
These optimistic verses have messianic overtones, for they speak of an idyllic time in the future. Many Jews in the time of Jesus had these images in mind when they spoke of God's judgement. Yet, Matthew used these verses when he penned the arrival of the Magi. For the evangelist and Christians ever since, the Magi saw the glory of the Lord rise in Judea. But, the people and their leaders were blinded.
This passage challenge us to see what the Lord is doing. To look beyond the tedium and the mundane. To see his glory shine. And to lead us.