“He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”

The Old Testament proclamation for this day could be taken either from Song of Songs or Zephaniah.  Song of Songs is very beautiful, of course, but the excerpt from Zephaniah (3:14-18a) is even more lovely, heart-warming, and hopeful still.

Writing a few decades before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., Zephaniah prophesies in stark terms the devastation and death that divine judgment will bring due to the sins of the people.  But he ends on the hope-filled note above.  These must have been heartening words to a people who suffered terribly in the days of the prophets; it should evoke the same sentiments in us today, especially in light of Christ’s Incarnation.  Consider this insight from The Navarre Bible: Minor Prophets:

The Christian, in reading these verses, cannot but be reminded of the scene of the Annunciation: Mary, too, the humble virgin (Lk 1:48), is invited to rejoice (Lk 1:28) and not to fear (Lk 1:20), because the Lord is with her (Lk 1:28).  And indeed, with the Incarnation of the Word, the Lord did come to dwell among his people, and the salvation that was promised came to pass. (270)

When reading the headlined verse, staying in the New Testament, I cannot help but be also reminded of Jesus’ words:

I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. (Luke 15:7)

This comes as a blow to those who would attempt to distinguish a supposed Old Testament “God of Wrath” from a New Testament “God of Love.”  No, God is unchanging.  But He does desire a change, a conversion, a renewal, in us.  And how He rejoices when we accept the graces and love He so longs to shower upon us!

For any person who thinks he is useless, of no account, despised, or irredeemable, this is the best news.  We can make the Lord, and all of heaven, rejoice!  He who does not need us wants us and would do (and has done — Christmas is four days away, remember) everything for us. God truly has a plan for each of us.  No matter how badly we’ve strayed from it, there is always time to reorient ourselves, even in our last moments.  But let’s not wait until then.  This is the time of conversion!  Let’s tarry no longer.

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