22 December 2011

The Way of Spiritual Magnification

4th Week of Advent (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Our Blessed Mother praises her Savior: Magnificat anima mea Dominum! My soul magnifies the Lord! She is “most blessed among women” b/c she believed that the Word of her Lord would be fulfilled. And even as she sings God's praises, His Word is being fulfilled in her body: the Christ-child readies himself to be born. The prayer we know as the Magnificat, or the Canticle of Mary is more than an outburst of joyful praise; it is also a recollection of God's promises to His faithful people. Not only do we hear a recitation of God's saving deeds, we also hear the Spirit rededicate Himself to the tasks of preserving, protecting, and providing for those who place themselves in His fatherly care. In other words, our Blessed Mother reminds us of all that He done for us; all that He is doing for us now; and all that He will do until Christ is among us once again. 

What has our Lord done for His people? “He has mercy on those who fear him. . .He has shown the strength of his arm. . .[He] has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones. . . [He] has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things. . .[He] has sent [the rich] away empty. . . .[and] He has come to the help of his servant Israel. . .” Why has He done all these things? “[Because] He remembered His promise of mercy. . .” To whom did He make this promise of mercy? “[To] our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever." We are the children of Abraham, the adopted sons and daughters of our father in faith, co-heirs to the kingdom of heaven through the grace of Christ Jesus. Our Lord has done these great deeds for us out of His mercy. . .not b/c we deserve them, not b/c we have earned them, not b/c we have purchased them but b/c He loves us and wills for us only what is good. Mary remembers the Lord's historical works; she proclaims His on-going works, and she prophesies His works for us in our future.

How do we as creatures—beings of ash and air—acknowledge the providence of God, His loving-care for us? Mary shows us the way when she sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord! My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Following the Blessed Mother, the way for us is the way of spiritual magnification: to set our souls to the task of bringing the Lord's love and mercy into sharper, keener focus; to amplify, to enlarge the works of the Lord by acting, speaking, feeling, thinking—doing all that we do for His greater glory. We labor to ensure that our words and deeds expand His love and mercy. We work at making sure that our thoughts and feelings prosper in His promises of forgiveness. We do not wallow in self-pity, recrimination, or vengeance. We do not nurture grudges or pick at our wounds. We make gratitude our minute-by-minute prayer, sacrificing entitlement and greed, exchanging ingratitude for humility and feeding the roots of holiness with the same song of joy that our Blessed Mother sings. She exults in her Lord and shows us the way to Christ.

Is there a better time in the Church year to practice being Christ among your family and friends? We all wait for the birth of the Christ-child among us. Will there ever be a better chance for each of us to be born into the world as bearers of the Good News? To arrive among those we love as a herald of Love Himself? If you nurture bitterness, anger, a desire for revenge, why not risk forgiveness? Gamble them all on the mercy of God. He will magnify your soul as you magnify Him!

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  1. Gregg the Obscure3:41 PM

    Great homily! The 3d paragraph is especially good. The point you make is profound and highly pertinent to me. The skillful use of language in making that point is breathtaking.

    Is the turn of phrase "beings of ash and air" original? If so, congrats on it! If not, I'd like to know where you got it so I can seek thither.

  2. Gregg, I am very pleased that you found this homily useful! The phrase you mention was caffeine induced. . .all glory to coffee and chicory.