Zephaniah, the ninth of the twelve minor prophets, is a rarely quoted text in the daily lectionary. Thus, it is a memorable moment when we read a message like the joyful one that is the first reading for today. Listen:
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem…Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst. He will rejoice with you with gladness and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you…
It was significant today for me to read such an account of emotional experiences as I had just spent a heartfelt half-hour reading about families and other groups that have been spending this weekend re-connecting with loved ones. All across our country people are gathering in celebration of the incipient end of the pandemic. One after another, families and friends tell of the joy they have experienced upon spending time with one another. The stories are full of hugs, kisses, laughter and new stories from over the past year when such behaviors were not allowed. Love was the over-arching theme and the possibility of actually touching one another seemed almost miraculous. All of it gave credence to the second reading for this day from Paul’s letter to the Romans. We would do well to take his words to heart:
Brothers and sisters: Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality…
Above and beyond all that, there was the consummate example of love and hospitality—my favorite in the entire gospel (at least today…) where Mary “went in haste” to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary was a pregnant teenager seriously needing solace and she found it in Elizabeth (undoubtedly held tightly in her arms). How similar are some of today’s stories to Mary’s, how needy are we all of comfort after the past sixteen months!
May we find joy in the Lord as Zephaniah did, camaraderie as Paul and the early followers of Jesus did, and comfort at the possible end to the pandemic as Mary did in the person of her relative. And may we all remember on this Memorial Day to thank God for all the good that has been done for us.