My dear People of God,
We are Christians. The Bible tells us when people began to be called Christians. At the early times, the proclamation of the Gospel was done only to the Jews but later, some followers of Christ went to Antioch and started preaching the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Greeks also. According to the Scripture, “The Lord helped them, and a great number believed and were converted to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Their conversion attracted the attention of the church leaders in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. Barnabas urged the Greek converts to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion. Barnabas also went to Tarsus to look for Saul and brought him to Antioch where both of them stayed together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. Then the good news: “It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’” – Christiani, Χριστιανούς (Acts 11:26). Why were they called “Christians?” The disciples were followers of Christ and indeed “other Christs.” Christians are indeed other Christs!
Christ (Greek Χριστος) means Messiah, the Anointed One! According to St. Matthew, “and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ” (Matthew 1:16). St. Matthew came now to call him “Jesus Christ” meaning “Jesus the Anointed One (Messiah)” (see Matthew 1:18: “This is how Jesus Christ came to be born”). Anointing was done for priests and kings. Moses was told to dress and anoint his brother Aaron and his sons, invest them and consecrate them to serve God in the priesthood (see Exodus 28:41). The anointing oil was “a holy anointing oil” with which the Tent of Meeting and ark of the Testimony, the table and all its accessories, the lamp-stand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offerings and all its accessories and the basin with its stand were anointed and consecrated. This special oil was also used to anoint Aaron and his sons and to consecrate them to be priests in the service of God. The special oil was regarded as a holy thing (see Exodus 30:22-33). Samuel used the oil to anoint Saul as the leader of the people of Israel (see 1 Samuel 10:1) and later he did the same to David: “Yahweh said, “Get up and anoint him: he is the one!’ At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him, surrounded by his brothers; and the spirit of Yahweh seized on David from that day onwards” (1 Samuel 16:12-13). Anointing consecrated persons and thing.
This takes us to the prophecy of Isaiah. The Prophet announced: “The spirit of Lord Yahweh is on me for Yahweh has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the news to the afflicted …” (Isaiah 61:1-3). This prophecy of Isaiah was read by Jesus Christ in the synagogue at Nazara where he was brought up: “The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19; see Isaiah 61:1-2). And after reading that, Jesus sat down and began to speak “This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening” (Luke 4:21). This passage was connected with the Baptism of Jesus Christ: “And when Jesus had been baptised he at once came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And suddenly there was a voice from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on him” (Matthew 3:16-17). This was seen as the anointing of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, of course not with natural oil but with the oil of the Spirit. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God!
Each baptised person is an anointed one, another Christ, alter Christus! Sad to say, many baptised persons do not realise who they are – other Christs! We are Christians, not only because we are followers of Jesus Christ but also because we are other Christs. Some think that only priests are other Christs. But the truth is that all baptised persons are other Christs because they are all anointed with the oil called “Chrism.” After the baptism with water, the person is anointed with the Holy Oil of Chrism with the following prayer: “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life. Amen.” Really, the anointing incorporates the baptised the baptised person into Christ, making him or her part of the Body of Christ and transforming him or her into Priest, Prophet and King just like Jesus Christ is.
We, Christians, have sublime dignity by our baptism which changes us from being ordinary human beings to being children of God, sons and daughters of God. With the anointing with the Oil of Chrism, we become Christs, other Christs! This anointing is not to be confused with the claims of some “wonder workers”, “miracle workers”, “charismatics”, “pentecostals.” Some of these claim to be anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is free to anoint anybody. That is what is called charism. St. Paul teaches that the there are many different gifts from the same Holy Spirit. These gifts can be gifts of utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, faith, power of healing, power to work miracles, prophecy, power of distinguishing spirits, speaking in different tongues or power of interpreting of tongues (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). All these gifts can be called “anointing by the Holy Spirit”. Knowing that there are also magicians and sorcerers who do things that resemble what are spectacular and wonderful, we need to be careful about people claiming to be anointed by the Holy Spirit. There are authentic prophets as well as false prophets. One can know that a person has the genuine “anointing by the Holy Spirit” if the person claiming to be anointed uses the particular manifestation of the Spirit granted to each one for the general good and not for “sordid gain” (see 1 Corinthians 12:7; Titus 1:11). People with genuine power from the Holy Spirit must use their power for the building up of the community, that is, the Church. It is not for personal profit and gains. St. Paul insists that those who claim to be prophets or to have any spiritual powers must conform themselves to the commandments of the Lord and make sure that they do everything in a proper and orderly fashion (see 1 Corinthians 14: 26-40).
It is well known that most of the people claiming to be anointed by the Holy Spirit are just people displaying what can be regarded as parallel “Hollywood and Nollywood”. Most of them are actors and actresses, using the name of God and making fun and entertainment. They are attractive and they attract many people. This type of “anointing” is plain deceit. Jesus Christ himself said that there would be false Christs and false prophets who would arise and provide great signs and portents, enough to deceive even the elect, if it were possible (see Matthew 24:24). These claimants of “anointing” may succeed in piling up people and money but at the end they will hear what they may not expect. Their “Lord, Lord” and powerful preaching, prophesying, driving away of demons, working of many miracles will not bring them to heaven. They will hear from the Lord, “I have never known you, away from me, all evil doers!” (Matthew 7:23). Christians, you must be careful not to follow people who make false claims of “anointing by the Holy Spirit” when in fact they are magicians and sorcerers like those of Pharaoh and commercial entrepreneurs!
Anointing for eternal salvation is what Christians should be concerned about and interested in. All baptised persons are anointed with the oil of Chrism and thus they are incorporated into Christ. Christians, realise who you are: anointed people of God, another Christs! Canon 204 §1 gives us a summary of who and what a Christian is: “Christ’s faithful are those who, since they are incorporated into Christ through baptism, are constituted the people of God. For this reason they participate in their own way in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ. They are called, each according to his or her particular condition, to exercise the mission which God entrusted to the Church to fulfil in the world.” The genuine Christians are “Christ’s faithful”, people who are faithful to Christ, the Lord. This faithfulness as the people of God is the mark of a true Christian, of a truly anointed person! True Christians have been washed clean and have been sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of God (see 1 Corinthians 6:11). Christians who are genuine are people who have been born again with water and the Holy Spirit and who live a new life (see Romans 6:1-4). St. Paul calls such a Christian “someone dedicated to God” and as such is required to “be upright and religious, filled with faith and love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith and win eternal life to which you were called and for which you made your noble profession of faith before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
Are you a Christian, an anointed one by God? Live like Christ; have the mind of Christ! Imitate Christ! Many people who claim to be Christians are sadly without the mind of Christ, without the spirit of Christ. Let us listen to St. Paul: “As God’s dear children, then, take him as your pattern, and follow Christ by loving as he loved you, giving himself up for us as an offering and a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). Genuine Christians are like Christ, God’s dear children and their lives should radiate Christ. There must be no sexual immorality, vice or impurity, greed, foul or salacious talk or coarse jokes, worshipping of false gods. The words of St. Paul are there for us: “Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is such behaviour that draws down God’s retribution on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you do not throw in your lot with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; behave as children of light, for the effects of light are seen in complete goodness and uprightness and truth” (Ephesians 5:6-9). Christians, truly anointed ones, “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) and live like Christ for by your anointing, you are another Christ!
Priests and Bishops are also anointed with the oil of Chrism. They are also each another Christ – Alter Christus! Priests and Bishops are, however, Alter Christus Caput and Pastor Ecclesiae – Another Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church! As Christians, priests and Bishops are just Alter Christus like other baptised persons and should behave in uprightness and truth as other genuine Christians. But as Alter Christus Caput et Pastor Ecclesiae, they have extra responsibility as leaders and ministers (servants) of the Christian people. They have the great responsibility to lead the Christ’s faithful in the Way of Christ. That is why the Church requires clerics to have a special responsibility: “Clerics have a special obligation to seek holiness in their lives, because they are consecrated to God by a new title through the reception of orders, and are stewards of the mysteries of God in the service of His people” (Canon 276 §1). Clerics, that is, Bishops, priests and Deacons, must live the life of anointed persons in dual capacity – as Christian and as Sacred Ministers. Both capacities call for the pursuit of perfection: “For your part you must be perfect in the way your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). .
Christians are called to be holy: “Imitate the One who called you. As he is holy so you, too, be holy in all your conduct, since Scripture says, Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).. However, some people who are supposed to be Christians by the baptism which they received and the anointing with the oil of Chrism and even some clerics still live sinful lives. The Book of Revelation tells us: “meanwhile let the sinner continue sinning, and the unclean continue to be unclean; let the upright continue in uprightness, and those who are holy continue to be holy. Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me, to repay everyone as their deeds deserve” (Revelation 22:11-12). My brothers and sisters, stop sinning and being unclean and live like Christ! With St. Barnabas, I urge us, Christians, to remain faithful to the Lord with all our hearts (see Acts 11:23). Christians, live like Christ, the Anointed One of God and you will live with Christ for ever and ever!
Most Rev. Hilary Paul Odili Okeke
Bishop of Nnewi