Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Finding extra room is difficult. Before I moved to Rochdale my family and I lived in a small three bedroom terraced house. Choosing wardrobes and chest of drawers that would fit was always a challenge. I learnt the use of loft beds and that Swedish furniture company was so handy to have down the road from us.
But one day though the furniture situation was critical and no amount of furniture shuffling could solve the problem.
We had to make a choice.
My bedroom was given to the children and so began a long season of sleeping downstairs.
It is amazing how we adapt and make room, there’s been so many occasions where my little house was absolutely brimming with people, but no one was turned away, spare chairs were found there was always the possibility of expansion.
It was love that made the expansion possible.
In today’s readings we hear the disciples being told by God to make room for the gentiles, and we hear Jesus telling the disciples to make room to love each other.
It is hard enough to find room in a small house but finding room in our hearts is even more difficult.
There is a certain amount of risk that goes into allowing ourselves to open up our hearts and love. We are putting ourselves at emotional risk, that old phrase about warning us not to wear our hearts on our sleeves rings true in today’s world, where success and continual improvement are the benchmarks of a satisfying life.
It is hard to make difficult decisions when the heart is involved.
When the heart is involved we are called to exercise patience with one another, to let love and relationships grow not at the rate that we deem acceptable that fits in with our lives, but growing at the pace that the Holy Spirit calls us to follow.
Peter experiences the immediacy of the Holy Spirit showing him a vision that he is to eat with the gentiles and share the Gospel with them. Peter did not have time to think about it much futher than the reaction to the vision, we see and hear in the reading in Acts “the spirit told me to go with them and not make a distinction between them”.
The Holy Spirit is saying enough with these boundaries that are hindering the flow of love, it is time to make extra room in your hearts.
Peter had to exercise patience with himself, not to ignore the Holy Spirit, he had to suddenly make room for the Gentiles in his heart, with the love that Jesus had told him to share. It certainly was worth the risk. He says “who was I that I could hinder God?”
My heart is pulled and aches at the declaration from Peter, “who was I that I could hinder God” and “the spirit told me to go with them and not make a distinction between them”. Inside me I feel that familiar feeling of worry, the worry of falling in love, that there is always a risk that it is going to hurt.
However, whatever I do, whatever we do when we serve others I hear these words spoken over us. Do not make a distinction between them, love one another, just as I have loved you.
Where the love of God is concerned, The Holy Spirit is a gift of love breathed onto the disciples by the risen Jesus, we do not make a distinction.
This direct and empowering command from the Holy spirit, its immediacy is the same that blew into the room and landed with tongues of fire filling the disciples with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
We can see that when the fire and love of the Holy Spirit blows we must act, we must start to enlarge and make room in our hearts for others.
It is not a case of shuffling around the furniture to fit something else in, it is literally the opening up of another room where more love can dwell.
The thing is, we cannot do this on our own. In both readings God is present speaking His word of love, in the Gospel we hear Jesus saying to the disciples
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love on another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
People will know that you are my disciples because you have made room in your hearts for my people.
We have to let Him into our hearts to be able to have our hearts continually expanded by His love and in turn enabling us to make room in our hearts to love others.
I don’t know if anyone has seen or heard about the “Thy Kingdom Come” initiative that takes place every year between Ascension Day and Pentecost, where we commit ourselves to daily prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
I saw a video last night recorded by Archbishop Welby that has a Message from His Holiness Pope Francis, Pope Francis speaks of asking the Holy Spirit to enlarge and widen our hearts as we all have a problem, and that problem is that our hearts tend to shrink, they become smaller and close, it is a problem that we can’t solve by ourselves, only the Holy Spirit can solve it.
The readings today and the message from the Pope points us to committing ourselves to asking the Holy Spirit to come and move and expand our hearts, it is time to push the boundaries of who we love and to take a risk in the name of Jesus.
I spent a lot of time in hospital with my Mum this week and I saw the Holy Spirit at work, enlarging hearts of those who were suffering with the worry of a loved one being ill. I sat in the waiting area alone in the High Dependency Unit for hours, yet other people who were also visiting spoke to me, listened to what was going on with my Mum and I in turn did the same. People contacted me through text and social media and in the middle of that long silent waiting, I felt my heart push against the lure of closing in on itself through loneliness and despair.
In times where we feel that we must protect our hearts at all costs, we run the risk of them becoming smaller and closed off.
When we reach out and communicate, when we reach out and love, pushing against the boundaries that the world, society, culture sets for us, when it feels like we have nothing left to give, here is where Jesus calls us to make our hearts grow in His love.
Jesus says loves one another just as I have loved you, make room for Him and in turn make room for his people, don’t make a distinction, just radiate the gift of love freely given by the God who loves us more that we could ever know.
It is time to stop shuffling the furniture around, it is time to make another room, it is time to step forward in patience born through fortitude, strengthening our hearts within the brokenness of the world that tempts us to withdraw and keep safe our love.
Through brokenness we saw God’s greatest act of love, let us re-enact that love and listen to the Holy Spirit blow through our boundaries, who was I that I could hinder God?