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Lift Up Your Hearts

May 28, 2022

A reflection for the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord, year C. The readings are Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:17-23 and Luke 24:46-53.

By John Singleton Copley – abcgallery.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11222497

 There’s a quote from St. Augustine for this day, the Solemnity of the Ascension, that says: “Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him.” It’s a good reminder that today’s feast is not just about Jesus ascending to be with the Father, like St. Paul says in today’s second reading, to be seated at the right hand of God, above all principalities and authorities, and with and all things beneath his feet, but also that this feast is about how we can also already be in heaven with him. As the opening prayer today says, where Christ ascends in glory, we will follow in hope. Just as he didn’t leave heaven to be with us on earth and remains with us even after his ascension, we too are already in heaven with him, even though what has been promised has not yet been fulfilled. That means that even though our bodies are not yet in heaven, we can start lifting our hearts to heaven with Jesus. And so, I’ve been thinking about what it means to “lift up our hearts”. We say it at every Mass: “The Lord be with you; and with your spirit. Lift up your hearts; we lift them up to the Lord.” I’ve never really thought about what it means to lift up our hearts to the Lord so today I want to share with you four ways in which you can lift up your hearts with the ascended Jesus.

  The first image comes to us from our second reading. St Paul writes a beautiful thing: “May our Lord Jesus Christ, enlighten the eyes of your hearts, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.”  What does it mean to have the eyes of our heart enlightened? I think it means that our hearts are lifted up. And how do we enlighten our hearts? Part of it is Grace. God enlightens our hearts; In today’s Gospel it says that Jesus opened the Scriptures to the disciples. God opens our eyes; God enlightens us – that is a gift of God. But, we can also do things that enlighten the eyes of our hearts. When we learn about things, we are enlightened. When we open our hearts up to a stranger or someone who is different or has different ideas from us, our hearts are opened… that’s enlightenment. That’s also conversion: an opening of the heart. And, when the eyes of our heart are enlightened, our hearts are lifted up to the Lord.

Another way to lift up our hearts to the Lord is by lifting up our voices.

This is what happens to the Apostles at Pentecost. Luke, in our first reading describes how they were clothed with power from on high and became witnesses to the whole world. When we lift up our voices as witnesses, we are lifting up our hearts to the Lord. That’s what St. Paul is doing in the second reading today: he is preaching the Word. He is lifting up his voice. The disciples also do it, in today’s Gospel after Jesus is taken to heaven; they praise him and return to Jerusalem where they are continually praising the Lord.

Last Sunday I was at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton for Mass. It’s an inner city parish that has a large ministry to an urban Indigenous community. It’s a small, low income parish community; they don’t have a lot, but when it was time to worship, they sang and they said all the responses out loud. They lifted up their voices. Today’s Psalm says that we should shout with joy. I’m not saying you have to shout, but one way to lift up your hearts to the Lord is to lift up your voices at Mass. Next time you’re at Mass, when it’s time to say, “and with your spirit” and “we lift them up to the Lord” say it loud. When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, lift up your voices. When it’s time to sing; sign it out! When you do, you are lifting up your hearts to the Lord.

Of course, another way to lift your voice is to speak up when you have to; speak the Truth. Speak justice; speak up for those who have no voice. When we do, we are lifting up our hearts to the Lord.

A third way in which we can lift up our hearts to the Lord is by lifting up our hands.

Jesus does this in today’s Gospel: He raises his hands and blesses the apostles. When we lift up our hands in blessing, we are lifting up our hearts to the Lord. We think that only the pope, bishops, priests and deacons can bless, but do you know that you can bless too? It’s not the blessing of the Church, but it is your blessing. You can bless your children; you can bless your spouse. And when you speak a good word or do a good deed, you are also being a blessing to someone else. How much are you a blessing to other people? At the end of the day, it’s good to ask ourselves, “how was I a blessing to others today?” or “Who did I bless today?”

Another reason to lift up our hands is to worship. We don’t do that too much in our culture. Last Sunday, one of the parishioners at Sacred Heart in Edmonton had her arms up during most of the songs and prayers. We sort of do it in our parish when praying the Lord’s Prayer. You don’t have to, but maybe sometimes we shouldn’t be shy to lift up our hands and worship – that is definitely a way to lift up our hearts.

Of course, another reason why we lift up our hands is to help someone: we lift up our hands to give someone else a hand; to lift someone else up. When we do, we are lifting up our hearts to the Lord.

One last way in which we can lift up our heart to the Lord is by literally lifting up our eyes to the Lord.

This is what the Apostles are doing at the end of the first reading today. Jesus is taken up to heaven and they are left, looking up at the sky. It’s good to keep our feet planted here on earth, but we should also keep our eyes on the heavens, for that is where we are headed. Where do you look when you are looking for God? When you are praying? When I was younger, I didn’t like it when the priest or the deacon said, “bow your heads for God’s blessing” or someone said, “bow your heads in prayer.” I didn’t want to look up – God’s not down on the ground. I wanted to look up. Lifting up our eyes means acknowledging that God is God and we are not; that he is supreme, above every authority and principality. It means that we accept him as Lord of our lives. We look up to him, the way we look up to a role model or celebrity. We also lift our eyes to God the way a child looks up to her parent. What a beautiful image that is! How often do you lift up your eyes to the Lord? When you do, you are lifting up your hearts to the Lord.

Christ ascends to show us the way. He ascends so that we too can ascend. That’s the hope to which we are called. The promise is not yet fulfilled but we can actively lift up our hearts to the Lord – that’s where we’re headed. When we open up our hearts to others, allowing Christ to enlighten the eyes of our hearts; when we lift up our voices in worship or to speak what is right; when we lift up our hands in praise or in blessing or to lift someone else up; and when we lift up our eyes to the heavens, we are lifting up our hearts to the Lord.

Why not start next time you’re at Mass? When you say, “and with your spirit” and “we lift them up to the Lord” let’s think about what that means and really lift up our hearts, lifting our voices, lifting our hands and lifting our eyes – and as we go forth from our church, into our families, our workplaces, our schools and our communities, on our way to heaven, as we lift others up with us, let’s let our hearts ascend into heaven with Jesus Christ, for where Christ has gone in glory, we follow in hope.

From → English

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