25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Several years ago, I baptized a baby girl who was given the name Magnificat. When I asked the parents why they chose that name for her – I could still remember their exact words – they said, “We’d like our daughter to be like Mama Mary: someone whose life magnifies or glorifies the Lord.”
Magnificat’ is the first word of the canticle of Mary found in Luke (1:46-55), whose first verse is: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” It is also translated as “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Pope Benedict XVI gives us the significance of the Magnificat in these words: “This marvelous canticle mirrors the entire soul, the entire personality of Mary.” “We can say that this hymn of hers is a portrait of Mary, a true icon in which we can see her exactly as she is.” Indeed, Mary’s entire life is about magnifying the Lord… it is about proclaiming the greatness of the Lord.
Interestingly enough, the word ‘magnify’ is also used in today second reading. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, says, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” What does the word ‘magnify’ mean? What is a magnifying glass? It is a lens used to produce a bigger (magnified) image of an object. It makes an object appear larger than it is in order to be seen or read more easily.
It is said, “When God’s grace stretches a soul, one becomes more attentive to the needs of others.” Mary allowed God’s grace to stretch her soul – she is full of grace – and thus, she became attentive to the needs of others. Pope Benedict says that Mary wanted God to be great in the world, great in her life and present among us all. By being open to God, Mary magnifies the presence of God. Mary’s magnifying the Lord means, above all, that God works through her.
If Magnificat is a description and reflection of the life of Mary, it should also be the very spirit and meaning of our life. Our life must be one of magnifying Christ. Or using the phrase of Paul: Christ must be magnified in our life. Not that Christ is “too small,” but that he might be recognized more easily by others. Not that Christ’s deeds are “too little,” but that they might be seen more clearly by others or made more visible to others. Like Mary, our entire life – everything in us – must be about “proclaiming the greatness of the Lord.”
Today’s second reading poses some serious questions…Is Christ magnified in our whole life – in our thoughts, in our words, in our deeds, in our actions? Is Christ magnified in our relationships with our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow parishioners? Is Christ magnified in job, careers, professions and businesses? Are they saturated by his gospel values? Is Christ magnified in our political views and moral stands? Are they based on the Gospel of truth, justice, peace and love? Is Christ magnified in what we post on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)?
Today’s gospel parable must not be seen from the point of view of fair labor practice – or else, we would miss the point of the story. It is a story about God’s goodness and generosity, not about labor guidelines.
Come to think of it: the landowner was not being unfair or unjust to the first workers – because he gave them what they had agreed upon – “the usual daily wage.” He was just being generous – too generous, in fact – to the last workers by giving them more than they deserved. He gave them the daily wage too – even though they had worked for one hour only. Jesus wants to startle or shake us up by saying: “Do you not see? Do you not realize? The owner of the vineyard is what God is like – all goodness and compassion, all mercy and generosity.”
Remember: God always gives us more than we are entitled to. He always forgives us of our sins more than we ever deserve. And he always blesses us with more than we are worthy of. Having been treated like this by God, we must do the same to others. Let us magnify God’s goodness and generosity by being good and generous to others. Let us magnify God’s love by becoming loving and lovable persons. Let us imitate God’s extravagant generosity. May we be more generous to one another not just by forgiving offenses, but also by forgetting them. May we be more generous to one another not just by fulfilling our duties, but by offering to do more. May we be more generous to one another not just by doing what is expected of us, but also by doing the unexpected – the things that delight people so much.
Let us love even when we have been hurt, let us give even when we have not received, let us forgive even when forgiveness has not been sought, because our God is extravagantly generous.