The church’s celebration of Easter continues as we rejoice in Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The next two weeks capture the richness of the resurrected Lord together with the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. Both enable the faithful to believe in the glory of God, to proclaim the faith and the ability to witness the mission by means of special gifts.  

To believe  

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

St. Luke begins the Acts of the Apostles with a retelling of the historical truths of Jesus’ resurrection, namely the evidence as witnessed by hundreds whom he appeared to, including those who saw the empty tomb, those who touched the wounds in his hands and side inflicted by the crucifixion. St. Luke writes that for 40 days Jesus gave his final instructions to the apostles. They now are seeing Jesus’ promise of salvation fulfilled by his cross and resurrection, freeing all from the slavery of sin and opening the gates of heaven.  

On his last day of visible presence on earth, Jesus commissioned them to be ready for the Holy Spirit who will come and give them the power so that others will come to believe. They will be able to cast out evil, speak with others and be understood, all without harm because death has been conquered. With that, Jesus was lifted in a cloud of glory and taken from their sight. Their eyes were “intently” fixed upon the sky as their hearts were enlightened in belief and hope in the promise of Jesus’ return. They stood there, motionless until “two men clothed in white” (angels) appeared and reiterated what just happened, thus fortifying their belief. 

If present, how would I have responded to this moment? Have I considered that this is also MY commission? How can I share belief of the reality of the resurrection and ascension to others? Am I prepared for Jesus to return again? How intently are the eyes of my heart fixed on Christ ascending to the throne in heaven? 

To proclaim  

The readings share insight into how we are able to share our faith in Jesus, the fullness of truth. The promise of the paraclete, that is the Holy Spirit as our advocate and counselor, is real. We receive the grace of the gifts of the Holy Spirit at baptism, with a deepening and strengthening of the same at confirmation. This is why confirmation is not an option, for without the increased outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit we are at minimal capacity to serve as living, intentional disciples of Jesus.  

St. Paul writes of the gifts and fruits that maximize our ability to proclaim our faith. Instead of being huddled in our corner of the world, the Holy Spirit pours out graces to infuse within us wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord, together with fruits that help build virtue such as joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These give the ability to live worthily as followers of Christ, helping us to love God, love others and avoid sin. We are equipped to build up the body the Christ by the same Holy Spirit that over-shadowed Mary at the Incarnation, was present at Jesus’ baptism, manifested at the Transfiguration, and appeared as tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost.  

Enabled to serve  

Thus, the gifts of the Holy Spirit enable us to believe, empower us to serve, guide us to choose good over evil and fill our hearts with the ability to love God and others. This is grace, upon grace, upon grace. We serve one Lord, one truth, one baptism, one body in Christ with the Holy Spirit who is the Lord, the giver of life. The fullness of life in Jesus Christ is a gift to be treasured, guarded and shared for all to know. Our faith, coupled with our actions of mercy, will truly build the kingdom of God leading all souls to heaven, in the peace of Christ. May the Holy Spirit enable us to be life-giving witnesses of what is good, what is right and what is true. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” Amen. (Jn 3:16).  

Dow is the Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.