Be ‘Magnifiers’ of God!
Magnificat, Magnificat, anima mea Dominum: Mary’s Song of Praise. ‘My soul glorifies The Lord’, is how it is often translated; or sometimes, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of The Lord’. My favourite version has always been: ‘My soul Magnifies the Lord’!
Maybe it’s because, as a young boy, I loved to play with a magnifying glass, marvelling at the way the lens made everything bigger – like leaves and insects and the hairs on my arm! At school, our boys’ choir sang: ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’, and I thought: What a wonderful idea that is – to magnify The Lord; to make God bigger! And that is the challenge I want to share with you this afternoon – to ‘make God bigger’ in your life and in the world. I am going to focus on three areas: firstly, magnifying God in our personal lives; then, in the family; and, finally, in society.
Magnify God in your personal lives
Firstly, how might we magnify the Lord in our own personal lives? When I look at my own life, I can easily think of the ways that i restrict God, ‘make God smaller’. I can sometimes squeeze Him out of my life altogether by clogging up my day and mind with so many preoccupations and wasteful distractions that there is little space left for God.
That is why I want to thank you for making special time for God by coming here to Roscrea. I don’t know who or what brought you here – perhaps a friend encouraged you, or you were just curious to find out more about God and your faith? Whatever it was, you chose to publicly witness to your family and friends that you love God and you want God to have a bigger share in your life. You are magnifying The Lord!
I encourage you to keep saying a clear and intentional “Yes’ to God in your life. Become an ‘intentional disciple’ of Jesus. During these few days you have been discovering practical ways of ‘making God bigger’ in your life: for example, by spending time each day in prayer or Eucharistic adoration; or, by meditating more often on God’s Word or on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
Maybe you have felt called to regular Confession or to become more actively involved in the life of your local parish or other Catholic community? My friends, do not be surprised if God calls you to change your life. An intentional ‘yes’ to God is usually accompanied by an inner conversion experience; you will want to turn your back on some sinful habit or unhealthy relationship. But do not be afraid. God will give you the grace and strength you need to change.
If you want to find a great example of a wholehearted ‘Yes’ to God, look to our heavenly mother, Mary. If we can, like her, say a clear and intentional
‘Yes’ to God’s Word, and become lowly servants, magnifying God’s presence within us, then who knows what marvels the Almighty can work through us!
A few years ago, speaking on today’s Feast of the Assumption, Pope Benedict said that at the moment of Mary’s ‘Yes’, her heart became like the Holy Ark that bears God’s presence; her heart grew so huge at that moment that it was as if the whole of creation could enter into it! So, if Mary’s heart is big, like the heart of God, then it has room for all of us who turn to her in our need!
Magnify God in the Family
My friends, the family is a vital nucleus for our Church and society. I call you, then, secondly, to magnify The Lord in the family. There are huge pressures on the family nowadays, not least here in Ireland: cultural, social and spiritual pressures. Pope Francis has called an Extraordinary Synod of bishops in October to discuss the pastoral challenges to the family. I encourage you to keep the intentions of the Synod in your thoughts and prayers.
To magnify the Lord in the family, to proclaim the Good News of the Family, is an integral part of our mission in the Catholic Church. I believe that, despite the many challenges that face family life, the people of Ireland still treasure the intrinsic value and beauty of the family unit of mother and father together with their children. Many young people search for someone with whom they can commit their lives in faithful love, someone with whom they can have children and build a family. For Catholics, the family is the domestic Church where a man and woman choose to live a vocation to faithful love, open to the gift of children. And what an added privilege it is, to be able to pass on to those children the precious gift of faith!
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that marriage and the family is somehow a ‘bed of roses’, all romantic and without challenges. We are all well aware, from our own families and relationships, of the intense pressures – from within and without – that face couples who commit their lives to each other in marriage. We are conscious that, despite their best intentions, some couples find themselves no longer able to sincerely live together in faithful love. Many
Catholics find themselves in this situation and our Church must find new pastoral ways of reaching out to them with God’s abundant mercy and love so that they do not feel themselves as ‘outsiders’ in their own Church.
The consultation process that has taken place all over the Catholic world in preparation for October’s Synod on the family, has unfolded a panorama of pastoral challenges to marriage and the family. The pressures we face in Europe are not altogether the same as the challenges faced by Catholics in Africa or
Asia. But despite the difficulties and problems, the universal Catholic Church still wishes to proclaim to society that the prophetic beauty of a man, woman and their children united in marriage and in family, is something special and well worth protecting, for the common good.
Recently, our Holy Father, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of genuine communication in the family, between husbands and wives themselves, and between parents and children. He reminded us of the importance in the family of often using the words ‘Can I?’, ‘May I?’, ‘Thank you’, and ‘I’m sorry’, and, of never letting the sunset to go down on anger or disputes within marriage and the family. Dear young people, develop the habit now of using often words like ‘May I?’, ‘Thank you’, and ‘I’m sorry’. These words are ‘magnifiers’ of God’s presence in the home and family, and when you yourself are a wife, husband, mother or father in the future, they will need to be second nature to you.
Magnify God in Society
Finally my friends, I encourage you to magnify the Lord in society, beginning, of course with your own friends and colleagues. I always feel challenged by the mission we receive at the end of every Mass: ‘Go in peace, glorifying The Lord with your life’! Allow me today to vary that beautiful translation a little: Go in peace ‘magnifying’ the Lord by your life.
In a particular way, I encourage you to bring the Good News about Jesus to your fellow young people. The future of youth ministry in the Church in Ireland will be about ‘youth ministering to youth’. Your motto in Youth 2000 sums this up perfectly: “Youth leading youth to the heart of the Church.” Each of you has experienced the love of God in your life. You are gradually coming to know how joyful and fulfilling it is to live out the Catholic faith. Your mission now is to ‘magnify the Lord’ by your life, by sharing your faith with others, and by leading your peers to Jesus Christ, who is the source of all love, joy and happiness.
‘Making God bigger’ will sometimes mean becoming a critical friend to your peers, pointing out to them the contradictions and empty promises that society, so steeped in individualism and relativism, can tend to offer them. Be a critical friend also of the Church as it begins a humble renewal here in
Ireland. As I have often said, you, as young people, are not just the future of the Church, you are its present too! We need more than ever your gifts and charisms, and that includes your constructive criticism!
Pope Francis in ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ calls on you, the young Catholics of the world, to show leadership, even to become ‘preachers’ of the Good News, ‘joyfully bringing Jesus to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth!’ Please God, I pray that some of you may decide to magnify the Lord by answering the call to priesthood or the religious life.
It is vitally important that no matter how we answer the call to discipleship, we always present our faith in a positive, rather than judgemental way. Do not be afraid to speak out with conviction in the public square on matters about
Life, Marriage and Family, Poverty and Injustice, Peace and Reconciliation. But always be mindful of God’s mercy, as Mary’s Magnificat tells us – ‘His mercy lasts from age to age’. Positivity magnifies. Negativity suffocates the Spirit.
Let me conclude by sharing with you the testimony of one young person in her early twenties who wrote to me recently. She told me that in the past two years, through her University chaplaincy, she has rediscovered her faith for herself.
It has changed everything for her. For the first time she has become an ‘intentional disciple of Jesus’. For her, this has meant a commitment to Sunday
Mass, daily prayer, regular Confession and Eucharistic adoration. She finds her faith speaking much more clearly to her now about what she values in life and her own sense of personal morality. God’s presence has been truly magnified in her life. And this, in turn, has made her acutely aware of the public implications of her faith. She has become active in the Life movement; and St
Vincent de Paul Society – she is much more attuned to the injustices she sees around her and the needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
The reason I mention her today, is that she rediscovered her faith through the encouragement of a friend who was a member of Youth 2000; at the end of her letter, she mentions her favourite prayer as Mary’s Magnificat.
Dear young people present here today, if you all, like her, could become ‘magnifiers’ of God’s presence in your own personal lives, in the family and in society, then the Almighty will truly work marvels for Ireland and, through you, help to change the world.