Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are now just a few days away from celebrating Christmas. In the week leading up to the 25th of December, the Gospel readings for daily Mass set the stage for the Nativity of Our Lord. The Gospel passage for Dec. 19 tells of the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah to deliver the good news that his formerly barren wife Elizabeth would give birth to a boy who would come to be known as John the Baptist. On Dec. 20 the angel Gabriel again makes an appearance in the Gospel of St. Luke, now appearing to Mary to tell her that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit and give him the name Jesus. The Gospel reading for Dec. 21 tells of Mary's visitation to her cousin Elizabeth and the joy they share in the expectation of the birth of their sons. Mary's prayerful response recounted on Dec. 22 is her canticle that we call the Magnificat, her joyful praise of God for the unborn babies in their wombs.

The word magnificat comes from the Latin phrase for the opening of this great Marian hymn, often translated as, "My soul magnifies the Lord." What does this mean?

Normally when we think of magnification, what we have in mind is making something appear to be bigger than it actually is, like when we use a magnifying glass. But how could we possibly make the Lord appear to be larger than he really is? Obviously, we can't! Anything we try to say about God actually tends to reduce him to something much less than divine reality, given our limited capacity to understand divinity, let alone to describe it.

We get a clearer picture of the meaning of Mary's words from the primary dictionary definition given for the word "magnify," namely, to extol, to laud, or to cause to be held in greater esteem or respect. That is precisely what Mary does, causing the Lord to be held in greater esteem or respect, not only with her words, but with her life. St. John the Baptist did the same, preparing the way and pointing to his cousin Jesus. Nothing anyone could say, not even Mary or John the Baptist, could make God any greater than he already is, but much can be said and needs to be done to cause God to be held in greater esteem and respect in the minds of people.

Much has been said recently about the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow, and his penchant for extolling God and expressing his religious beliefs in public. In recent weeks, he has brought his team back from the brink of defeat against the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Chicago Bears. His iconic celebration of victory is to point skyward and take a knee in prayer. He usually opens the post-game interview saying, "First, I'd like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." Then he closes with, "God bless."

This infuriates some people and is one of the main reasons why he has gotten so much media attention. Nonbelievers don't like to hear about Jesus. Secularists want to banish expressions of faith from the public square.

Personally, I say, hooray for Tim Tebow. He's doing what Mary did, magnifying the Lord. He says that football is just a game and that God doesn't care who wins or loses. I like to say that when athletes die, God is not going to ask them at the Last Judgment what their won/lost record was. But God does care about how we use the gifts and talents that he gave us. So we should care enough to give God praise and thanksgiving for these gifts.

That's what the Blessed Virgin Mary did. We should follow her example. On Christmas Day we will celebrate the greatest gift that God could ever give us. He has given us his incarnate Son. We shouldn't be quiet about that. We should make known to all world that Jesus is the Messiah, our Redeemer, our Savior. Like Mary, our whole lives should be a constant song of praise: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!"

I pray that your Christmas season will be holy and bring you closer to the Lord.

May God give us this grace. Amen.