On Friday I drove a good Jesuit friend of mine to Denmark, Wisconsin, to the Carmel of the Holy Name of Jesus. I’ve blogged about the Carmelite Sisters there before and it’s always a treat for me to visit them. My Jesuit friend is going to be their chaplain for the next few months during a time when the weather near Green Bay can be very “iffy” and could affect the travel of a visiting priest who comes to celebrate their daily Mass.
On Saturday I had the privilege of celebrating Mass for the Sisters and the visitors who join them for their daily 7 AM Mass. One line in the first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians really caught my attention: “now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body.” It’s a beautiful image: how we magnify the Lord. That’s what the Magnificat of Mary is all about, as one translation has it: “my soul magnifies the Lord.”
Does God need “magnification?” Isn’t God beyond “magnification?” When I was a boy I used to take a magnifying glass and test its power of concentrating the sun’s rays in a way that would burn leaves or paper. Jesus is the Son of God, our Sun, our Light. He loves and respects us so much that He has included us in the great work of salvation. He shines on the world, but our lives—the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of each day—when they are offered to Him become a magnifying glass that concentrates His light and warmth and power so that they reach the world through us.
We see this in the life of Mary, the humble young woman chosen by God to be the Mother of the Son. Through her total surrender, her “yes” to God, the power of God was concentrated in a way that brought the Son to earth. We see this throughout the Gospels. We offer God what seems so little and insignificant, like five loaves and two fish, and His power magnifies the little offering, multiplying it so that it can feed thousands. We see it in the hidden lives of the Carmelite Sisters whose prayers and sacrifices are magnifying God’s grace and working wonders in the world.
With the eyes of faith, we can see this magnification in our lives as well. What may seem very small and insignificant, when offered and united to the perfect offering of Jesus in the Mass, takes on a significance that we can only imagine on this side of eternity, but which we will see fully on the other side of eternity. However, it works both ways. We can magnify the Lord and His grace or we can obstruct Him and His work of salvation. The choice is ours each day, each moment.
May we, like Mary and St. Paul and so many others who have said “yes” to God and offered themselves one day at a time for His will to be done, magnify God in our bodies, in our lives.