B Cycle – Feast of Ascension 18

Eph.1:17-23

Paul expressing God’s desire for us said “…may the eyes of your hearts be enlightened.” 

Take a minute and think about what Paul is saying and why he would exhort us to open ourselves to an emotional response to what God is offering us.  Yes, I said we are being exhorted to allow our hearts to overrule our minds and our intellect to fully appreciate what God has done for us by his gift of salvation.

Paul is the perfect apostle to point out the need to have a response that allows us to feel not think.  Why?  I believe it is by our experiencing the tender touch of God’s love we begin to understand” …the great hope to which we are called, the riches of his glory and the immeasurable scope of his power at work among us.”

Paul was a Pharisee, educated in the Old Testament: the Torah, the prophets and the law.  Yet with all his learning and intellect he completely missed every prophetic scripture which clearly indicated Jesus was the promised messiah.  His intellect blinded him so much, he was on a mission to eradicate all the so called Christians.  We can learn a lesson from Paul for I believe our intellect gets in the way of us fully understanding God’s love, God’s mercy, the reality of salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Our desire to become holy men and women of God has us like the disciples “looking at the sky” trying to figure out what to do next in our quest or journey of faith. Jesus had them confused for much of the time he spent with them and certainly after his death and resurrection they were even more confused.  Their understanding came with an experience of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  Paul’s experience came on the road to Damascus and his own encounter with the Holy Spirit.

Think of all the scriptures readings we have had since Easter.  We have had account after account of encounters with Christ and the heartfelt response to that encounter. The women at the empty tomb were overjoyed and yet bewildered – note joy came but not understanding.  We have the account on the evening of the resurrection of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and how their hearts were burning within them.  We have the account of the disciples in that upper room and Jesus appears to them and their response was one of belief.  We have the account of Thomas and his declaration of unbelief unless he touched – again understanding had to come before belief.

We must remember every prophetic passage from his birth, his ministry, his death and his resurrection were revealed by Jesus to the disciples.  Yet, we know they failed to understand any of it.  We might be able to excuse them because they were after all uneducated fishermen.  But Paul was not uneducated.  He had years of study of the scriptures and would have been able to verbally articulate every prophetic utterance about this promised messiah.

We know from the scriptures Paul’s intellect, wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures did not help him see what he longed to see or experience – the Messiah – until he was prayed with for the Holy Spirit to enlighten the eyes of his heart.

God through the prophet Jeremiah tells us that God desires to change our hearts, so we will know him (Jer. 31:33ff).  Think about a courtship and how the early stages are moments of discovery.  Each moment together is one of talking and discovering their passions and desires.  If we could have the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we would discover all God’s passions and desires for us. We are so busy looking at the sky to understand our faith we are missing out on the pure joy of being loved.

The moment we allow ourselves to be loved our faith will change from an uncertainty of our worthiness to an understanding of how our failings will never change the depth of God’s love for us.  Paul experienced that moment when Jesus instead of condemning him showed him the depth of God’s love and mercy.  That is why Paul could encourage us to have the eyes of our hearts opened and to fully begin to understand the riches of his glory can shine through us as disciples and the power of God that is available to us as believers.

Paul came to understand the gift of God’s mercy the moment his eyes were opened.  The disciple’s moment came with Jesus telling them to “wait in the city until (hey) were clothed with power from on high.”  Jesus was referring to the promise of God to send his Spirit upon all of us and by the action of the Holy Spirit working within us our eyes and hearts will be opened. With this experience we know what is offered to us has nothing to do with our “knowledge or wisdom” but has everything to do with our response to his love.

We should learn from the example of those who encountered him after the resurrection and have the eyes of our hearts opened by the One who came to remove the barrier of sin which separates us from God.

If we can come into his presence as did the woman caught in adultery, as did the woman at the well we would understand what is being offered us.  Jesus said stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.  We do not need to understand to do that. We only need to trust in his plan to help us understand and respond.  It is by the work of the Holy Spirit changing our hearts that allows us to respond with burning hearts to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.

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