This is the first week of a new series with a message from the words of Jesus, “Give them some food yourselves.” We are looking at the post resurrection time in the life of the church where, Jesus returns to the Father, sends the Holy Spirit for the Apostles, and we see the beginning of the community of believers forming to bring the mission of Jesus to the “ends of the world.” In this message series we will look at the gifts that God has provided and focus on the use of these gifts to form Christians and bring about a better community.
Through the course of the series we will discover that we are given enlightened hearts with the gift of the Spirit, we receive the gift of the Spirit for some benefit and we will look at the message of hope that God wants for us and all his children. Finally we tie it together in the fourth week with Jesus message that we are meant to help one another, what we receive we should be ready to share. So while these post-resurrection stories are informative and show the beginning of the community, there is also a deep pattern of receiving from God and acting upon what we have receive to share with others. If we just listen to the stories and are not moved to do something than we may not be Christian at all.So while these post-resurrection stories are informative and show the beginning of the community, there is also a deep pattern of receiving from God and acting upon what we have receive to share with others. Click To Tweet
This week we see the story of Jesus being lifted up to heaven and the Holy Spirit provided to those who were Jesus’ disciples. It is an Ascension message which is clear to point out that Jesus had to go so we could receive the Spirit. The Spirit is God in us who will give us many gifts to help us bring about the community of believers. The gift we will focus on this week is an enlightened heart.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Ascension of the Lord; Acts 1:1-11; Psalms 47:2-3,6-7,8-9; Ephesians 1:17-23; Luke 24:46-53. The readings guide us toward the knowledge that Jesus leaves so we may receive the Spirit and the gift the Spirit offers. It is through these gifts we are to participate in the creation of the Kingdom of God.
In the first reading from the beginning of Acts of the Apostles we read Luke highlighting what he had written about in his first book, the Gospel of Luke. The key moments where the Resurrection and how Jesus presented himself to apostles. How he instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, a baptism in the Spirit. Then Luke tells of Jesus being lifted and taken from their sight. It is a beautiful telling of the facts which we know Luke has investigated in great detail. The story ties the departure of Jesus from the earth with the arrival of the Spirit upon the apostles. At one point Jesus tells the Apostles that if he does not go then the Spirit will not come, so it is better that he goes. Jesus goes and the Spirit comes. First the Spirit comes upon the Apostles, Jesus’ witness in Jerusalem, Samaria, Judea and the ends of the world. It is the Spirit within these followers that begins the spreading of Jesus message and activities that come with being a Christian. It is through the hands and feet of Christians, dependent on the Spirit, that the new world wide community of Christianity is created.It is through the hands and feet of Christians, dependent on the Spirit, that the new world wide community of Christianity is created. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read about the gifts we receive from God, the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in the knowledge of God. Paul says the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened, we will know hope, we will know glory, we will have an inheritance, and power. We receive this gift as believers of Jesus who rose from the dead, is seated at God’s right, above every power, every name in all time. Paul informs that Christ is the head of the body of the church. These gifts we receive cannot be obtained without the grace of God. God wants us to know all about him and so enlightens us to be aware of him, to have hope in him, to know glory in him and have the promises of an inheritance with power. We require education to work a skilled job, or even training from our parents to know basic life skills, but when it comes to the knowledge of God we are gifted by the Spirit. We are enlightened, given a greater knowledge and understanding of God through God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. We know because God gives us the knowledge. It means without hearing anything from others we know deep inside there is something greater, we know we are searching for this greater being, and we won’t be satisfied until we somehow hold a part of this greater being. If we want to know God we simply need to search inside, the gift of enlightening our heart is there for us to receive.If we want to know God we simply need to search inside, the gift of enlightening our heart is there for us to receive. Click To Tweet
In the gospel reading from Luke, Jesus recounts the purpose of the Messiah; to suffer, die and rise on the third day so that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name everywhere. Jesus tells his Apostles they are the witnesses to this message and to help them he is sending the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. They go a few miles from Jerusalem and share a blessing as Jesus is taken up to heaven. The Apostle’s return to Jerusalem with great joy waiting for the promise of God. Jesus tells the Apostles to wait in the city until they are clothed with power from on high. For the Apostles they must have already received grace to understand what Jesus meant and to be ready to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. We see they returned with great joy. The gift of the Spirit provides the power and courage to share the message of Jesus and others will know that repentance and forgiveness is available. This is always available to us. God’s wants us to have the power of the Holy Spirit. We have an indwelling of the Holy Spirit if we are open to receiving it. It is the gift that gives us the enlightened heart to lead others to the message of Jesus and to live our life with great joy and happiness.
These readings from the weekend, marked for the Ascension are filled with God giving us power, God given us hope, God given us knowledge and understanding. Our hearts are enlightened by the gift of God, through the Holy Spirit. Jesus must go so we may receive more. God is constantly finding ways to fill our hearts with what will lead us back to God.
We see in each of these readings that Jesus entered and left humanity, but included in his leaving is the gifts we receive to be enlightened. Our hearts are enlightened by God through the Holy Spirit. We are giving knowledge and understanding. We are aware of God, we come to know God, we are able to see the promise of God. It is the enlightened heart that leads us the remainder of our journey. It is the enlightened heart that leads us to grace and blessing. God knows to enlighten our heart will provide us the ability to move toward the message of Jesus and becoming a sharer in what Jesus intended to bring to the world. We are gifted so we may gift others.God knows to enlighten our heart will provide us the ability to move toward the message of Jesus and becoming a sharer in what Jesus intended to bring to the world. We are gifted so we may gift others. Click To Tweet
Our readings talk about events in the life of Jesus and the Apostles. These events are filled with the moving of God in humanity. Jesus leaves and the Spirits arrive. Through the arrival of the Spirit we are given the gift of an enlightened heart. First the enlighten heart is a gift, it comes from God through the Holy Spirit, we receive it. This enlightened heart leads to seeing, we participate in the light. This begins a shift in our consciousness, we see things differently. Finally it moves us to and express an enlighten heart which is a person of love.
The enlightened heart is a gift we receive as grace first and then the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our first tasks is to receive it. We have nothing more to do, but be open to the gift of the Spirit. Let our heart accept enlightening without judgement or prejudice. Simply receive. As we read in the opening of the Gospel of John, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9) To receive an enlightened heart means to welcome the light into out heart.To receive an enlightened heart means to welcome the light into out heart. Click To Tweet
Next, we begin to see with an enlightened heart, the heart of Christ. All we have known is now illuminated with the true light. We have a beginners mind and we discover more about being light. Jesus says, “We are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) Having received an enlightened heart we become light that others will see. We must decide what we let them see. We must begin to participate in the light. We must become active participants in illuminating the light. We must let our light shine to reflect our enlightened heart filled with Jesus. We must be moved to change. We can’t receive the enlightened heart and stay the same, an enlightened heart requires change.We must let our light shine to reflect our enlightened heart filled with Jesus. We must be moved to change. We can’t receive the enlightened heart and stay the same, an enlightened heart requires change. Click To Tweet
We then begin a shift in seeing. We are participating and seeing things differently. We have a shift in consciousness. We use our enlightened heart to have the heart of Christ bring us to the seeing of Christ. We begin to see as Christ sees and we are changed. “Our light must shine before others, that they may see our good deeds.” (Matthew 5:16) We begin to be Christ. To be Christ is to be a “foot washer,” seeking to serve, doing for others, living for others. This shift makes us realize that Christ came to serve others and we are enlightened to do that same.To be Christ is to be a “foot washer,” seeking to serve, doing for others, living for others. Click To Tweet
Finally, the enlightened heart is the heart of love. We cannot have an enlighten heart if we do not love. The heart is dark if there is not love. “Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in darkness.” (1 John 2:9) To be a person with an enlightened heart we are a person of love. Which drives an even more intense desire to serve, in fact to heal. Healing was a main ministry of Jesus, and he made no prerequisites for who he healed. The words would be spoken, “Jesus Son of God have mercy on me” and Jesus always did. We must be the same way. Maybe we cannot heal a broken leg, or a disease, but there are many ways when our presence in someone’s life can be very healing. To have an enlightened heart is to want to heal those we love.To have an enlightened heart is to want to heal those we love. Click To Tweet
The message of Jesus leaving and sending the Spirit is a message of us receiving the gifts to become a Christian. To be a Christian is not some kind of worthiness contest where I do the most special prayers, attend the most Masses, pray the rosary many times a day, never miss a Divine Chaplet prayer. Also being a Christian is not about getting ready for the next world. We are not here now to follow some next world evacuation plan where we have all our sin confessed and put behind us and to be sure to we are noticed around the church.
We are Christian to be changed now, to be transformed. We can recognize a person with enlightened heart. They are changed. Their presence changes others, just by who they are. They have a light that shines for all too see. They love to make a difference. They love to help. They seek to serve.We are Christian to be changed now, to be transformed. We can recognize a person with enlightened heart. They are changed. Their presence changes others, just by who they are. Click To Tweet
Our religious institutions are intended to point to Jesus. They are not the end but the means. Sometimes we get a little focused on the pointing and ignore what we are supposed to be pointing at. Religion is by no means a spectator sport. We are called to be participants and if we are not participating then we don’t have it right.Religion is by no means a spectator sport. We are called to be participants and if we are not participating then we don’t have it right. Click To Tweet
Give them some food yourselves
We are given gifts to be used to participate in the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ message is for us to serve one another. We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the ill and visit the prisoner. We are to bring the body of Christ to the people of God. We don’t do this with sacraments and prayers unless we include washing feet. Jesus was a foot washer. He expects that same from us. If we are not actively, dedicatedly, committedly reaching out to serve, we are ignoring the gifts we are being given. There is no Christian that exists in the dark, the only way to be Christian is to let our light shine so others may see our good deeds.