At Mass lately, we have heard from a mysterious man about mysterious things, namely Isaiah the prophet. He lived some 700 years before Christ in Jerusalem during some of the key moments in the Holy Land’s history, like Assyria destroying the northern kingdom of Israel and the subsequent siege of Jerusalem. What I want to provide today, however, is not a comprehensive history but rather a key to understanding Isaiah. In short, the key to Isaiah is his call, just as God’s call is the key to every human heart; for the heart is a secret door with a secret password, and the password is God’s voice. God’s voice unlocked Isaiah and unleashed him upon the world, just as it should unlock each of us.
God calls Isaiah (Is. 6) after showing him a vision of His absolute majesty and glory, which brings Isaiah to a profound sense of unworthiness. If God’s call is the key to every human heart, here is the lock, namely the sense of humble unworthiness. Isaiah became aware of just how little he was before God, and God works best with the little; perhaps this is why God wanted to make us His little children. God made Isaiah little, and thus He unleashed him upon the world to make it little so that they would “return and be healed” (Is 6:10). The rest of Isaiah’s prophecy relies on this call: he is making people look up to a savior by making them look at their need for saving. Only the lowly look will look up to heaven; the proud are too busy looking at everything else.
Isaiah teaches us that the prerequisite to holiness is humility, a word that literally means lowly or of-the-ground. The lower we are, the more aware we are of the God above us; and it is no wonder that Jesus would command us to have humble hearts (Matt 11:29). After all, the smallest among us are often the easiest to love and spoil, even when it is a lot of work; for children are humble enough to know that they cannot do everything themselves. I imagine that it is similar for God; it is much easier for Him to love us and direct us when we are humble before Him.