Father Koch: The power of the Holy Spirit Is in the effects

May 16, 2024 at 11:55 a.m.
Photo from Shutterstock.com
Photo from Shutterstock.com (IgorZh)


Gospel reflection for May 19, 2024, The Solemnity of Pentecost

The disciples and members of the household of Jesus had reassembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavout (Pentecost). This celebration -- 50 days after Pesach (Passover) -- commemorates the moment when God delivered the Torah (Law) to Moses. The transmission of the Torah is the expression of the covenantal relationship of God to his people Israel, and lays out for them the foundation of their communal and religious obligations. While the Hebrews who left Egypt with Moses were related by blood, the covenant takes this relationship and deepens it as an expression of divine selection. They were bound now, not just by their common ancestry in Abraham, but specifically through Sarah. Abraham and other sons, one with Hagar and six with Keturah, but it is only those of the Abraham-Sarah line who are signified by God as the chosen people. At Mount Sinai, with the reception of the Torah, the people are forged and formed into one covenanted people.

Now, 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus, and only 10 days after his Ascension, God will forge a new people into a new covenant, as the Holy Spirit descends upon those gathered together in this house in Jerusalem. Now not just the Jewish people, now not just all of the varied descendants of Abraham, but rather the entire human race is drawn into one family, with a share in one promise of salvation, in and through Jesus Christ.

Celebrating that moment when once Israel was born, now it is the birth of a new people whom we have come to call the EKKLESIA -- the assembled -- the Church.

Unlike the gift of the Torah, which is a singular moment in time and observed as a moment of God’s time, Pentecost is an ever-present reality, continuing to enliven and empower the church each moment of each day.

In his fourth century treatise, Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus affirms: “This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven.”

Though we think of the Holy Spirit coming in power upon the apostles as tongues of fire, the Spirit also comes to us with the subtlety of drops of rain or the wisp of a breeze. The transformation brought about by the Spirit occurs in many diverse ways.

St. Paul instructs the Church of his time -- the Galatians and the Corinthians specifically -- that the Holy Spirit bestows all of the Gifts necessary for the Church to the Church. The Spirit is poured out to each member of the Body of Christ in a measure relative to that person’s ability and for the edification of the Church itself. No gift is given to build-up an individual over and against the whole.

Not all of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are clear, not all of them are dramatic, not all of them serve the church universal. But each Gift -- even if it is a specific Gift used for a very specific point in time -- is given so that the Body of Christ can continue to grow on the pilgrimage to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.

While we like to reflect on the saints and great leaders within the Church who exercised a powerful ministry and have left to the Church a great legacy of faith and service, it is the daily work of those in soup kitchens, schools, the public forum, and the small mission chapels in obscure places in the world, where the Holy Spirit continues to gift the Church with what we need to fulfill the Great Commission given to us by Jesus at his Ascension.

We may not feel any different when we are baptized, confirmed or ordained. There is no rush of power or physical change, but the effects of the power of the Holy Spirit are seen in work that we all do on behalf of the Kingdom of God.

Let us embrace this change and the movement of the Spirit, and not stand as stumbling blocks who work against the presence of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives and in the life of the Church.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.


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Gospel reflection for May 19, 2024, The Solemnity of Pentecost

The disciples and members of the household of Jesus had reassembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavout (Pentecost). This celebration -- 50 days after Pesach (Passover) -- commemorates the moment when God delivered the Torah (Law) to Moses. The transmission of the Torah is the expression of the covenantal relationship of God to his people Israel, and lays out for them the foundation of their communal and religious obligations. While the Hebrews who left Egypt with Moses were related by blood, the covenant takes this relationship and deepens it as an expression of divine selection. They were bound now, not just by their common ancestry in Abraham, but specifically through Sarah. Abraham and other sons, one with Hagar and six with Keturah, but it is only those of the Abraham-Sarah line who are signified by God as the chosen people. At Mount Sinai, with the reception of the Torah, the people are forged and formed into one covenanted people.

Now, 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus, and only 10 days after his Ascension, God will forge a new people into a new covenant, as the Holy Spirit descends upon those gathered together in this house in Jerusalem. Now not just the Jewish people, now not just all of the varied descendants of Abraham, but rather the entire human race is drawn into one family, with a share in one promise of salvation, in and through Jesus Christ.

Celebrating that moment when once Israel was born, now it is the birth of a new people whom we have come to call the EKKLESIA -- the assembled -- the Church.

Unlike the gift of the Torah, which is a singular moment in time and observed as a moment of God’s time, Pentecost is an ever-present reality, continuing to enliven and empower the church each moment of each day.

In his fourth century treatise, Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus affirms: “This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven.”

Though we think of the Holy Spirit coming in power upon the apostles as tongues of fire, the Spirit also comes to us with the subtlety of drops of rain or the wisp of a breeze. The transformation brought about by the Spirit occurs in many diverse ways.

St. Paul instructs the Church of his time -- the Galatians and the Corinthians specifically -- that the Holy Spirit bestows all of the Gifts necessary for the Church to the Church. The Spirit is poured out to each member of the Body of Christ in a measure relative to that person’s ability and for the edification of the Church itself. No gift is given to build-up an individual over and against the whole.

Not all of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are clear, not all of them are dramatic, not all of them serve the church universal. But each Gift -- even if it is a specific Gift used for a very specific point in time -- is given so that the Body of Christ can continue to grow on the pilgrimage to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.

While we like to reflect on the saints and great leaders within the Church who exercised a powerful ministry and have left to the Church a great legacy of faith and service, it is the daily work of those in soup kitchens, schools, the public forum, and the small mission chapels in obscure places in the world, where the Holy Spirit continues to gift the Church with what we need to fulfill the Great Commission given to us by Jesus at his Ascension.

We may not feel any different when we are baptized, confirmed or ordained. There is no rush of power or physical change, but the effects of the power of the Holy Spirit are seen in work that we all do on behalf of the Kingdom of God.

Let us embrace this change and the movement of the Spirit, and not stand as stumbling blocks who work against the presence of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives and in the life of the Church.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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