A life of faith is a life of sacrifice. Our christian vocation does not take us away from our place in the world, but it requires us to cast aside anything that would get in the way of God's will. The light that has just begun to shine is only the beginning. We have to follow it if we want it to shine as a star, and then like the sun. St John Chrysostom writes: "While the Magi were in Persia, they saw only a star. But when they left their homes behind, they saw the Sun of justice. We can say that they would not have continued to see the star if they had remained in their own country. Let us then hasten too; and even if everyone stands in our way, let us run to that child's home."

"'We have seen his star in the East, and have come to adore him.' When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him." This scene is still repeated today. Faced with the greatness of God or with a person who has made up his mind — with a decision both deeply human and profoundly christian — to live up to the demands of his faith, there are people who find it strange and in their surprise they even get scandalized. It seems they are unable to countenance a way of life which does not fit into their limited earthly horizons. They smirk at the generous actions of those who have heard God's call. They are frightened by such dedication, and in some cases that appear frankly pathological, they do all in their power to thwart the holy determination of those who with complete freedom have given themselves to God.

On some occasions I have witnessed what could be called a general mobilisation against those committed to dedicating their whole lives to the service of God and souls. Some people think that our Lord ought to ask their permission before choosing others for his service. Apparently they believe man is not free to say an unequivocal yes or no to this proposal of Love. To people who think that way, the supernatural life of each soul is something secondary. They do believe it has to be reckoned with, but only after petty comforts and human selfishness have been accommodated. If this were the case, what would be left of Christianity? Are the loving but demanding words of Jesus only to be heard? Or are they rather to be heard and put into practice? Did he not say, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect"?

Our Lord asks all men to come out to meet him, to become saints. He calls not only the Magi, the wise and powerful. Before that he had sent, not a star, but one of his angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem. Rich or poor, wise or less so, all of us have to foster in our hearts a humble disposition that will allow us to listen to the word of God.

Take the case of Herod. He ranked among the powerful of this world and had the opportunity of availing himself of the help of the learned. "And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born." His power and knowledge do not lead him to recognize God. In his hardened heart, power and knowledge are instruments for evil. His futile desire is to annihilate God, and he has only contempt for the life of innocent children.

Let us turn again to the Gospel. "They told him, In Bethlehem of Judah; for so it is written by the prophet: And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are by no means the least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel." We should not overlook these expressions of God's mercy. He who was to redeem the world is born in an insignificant little village. And the reason is, as Scripture tells us again and again, that God is not a respecter of persons. When he invites a soul to live a life fully in accordance with the faith, he does not set store by merits of fortune, nobility, blood or learning. God's call precedes all merits. "The star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest where the child was."

Vocation comes first. God loves us before we even know how to go toward him, and he places in us the love with which we can correspond to his call. God's fatherly goodness comes out to meet us. Our Lord is not only just. He is much more: he is merciful. He does not wait for us to go to him. He takes the initiative, with the unmistakable signs of paternal affection.

This point in another language