My dear People of God,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gave us the Holy Spirit as our Advocate! After the celebration of Pentecost we should be able 10 allow the Holy Spirit to remain in each and everyone who is a Christian, a follows of Christ, indeed, another Christ (alter Christus). It is important for us to recognise who we are as Christians so that we can live and behave like Christians, like Jesus Christ Himself- St. Paul really teaches us how Christians should behave; "Be followers of me, as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). This means that Christians are to imitate Christ. Christ is our model of life - "Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved lib, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness" (Ephesians 5:1-2 Catholic Bible version). Why should human beings imitate Jesus Christ, the Word who is with God and who is God then "became a human being? The Word who is God "was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the father, lull of grace and truth" (John 1:14; see John 1:1-4). How can a human being imitate God? That is precisely why Jesus the Sun ot God became a human being so that human beings can imitate him who is God!
This calls for radical transformation. Human beings who can imitate Jesus Christ must be transformed from being ordinary flesh to being reborn of the water and the Holy Spirit. In that way, such persons become also children of God. Jesus Christ informed Nichodemus about this transformation: "Jesus answered, and said to him: 'Amen, amen 1 say to thee. unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Being born again is the transformation that is required for a human being to be able to live like Jesus Christ. When Nichodemus expressed his surprise and doubts, Jesus explained his mind: "Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of" water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.. Wonder not, that I said to thee, you must he born again. The Spirit breatheth where he will; and thou hearest his voice; but thou knowest not whence he cometh, and whither he goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:5-8). Being born again is the sacrament of Baptism which Jesus Christ instituted to replace and exalt the baptism of John the Baptist. While the baptism of John the Baptist was a call to repentance, the Baptism of Christ is a rebirth, a radical transformation of a person. Born again with water and the Holy Spirit, the baptised person becomes a new being, a new human being.
Baptism cleanses a person removing the stain of original sin of Adam and Eve. Because of the sin at our first parents, Adam and Eve, every human being contacts sin. St. Paul presents the sinful environment of the natural human being: "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death, passed upon all men, in whom all sinned" (Romans 5:12). With Baptism, God removes the original sin and makes the baptised a child of God incorporated into Christ and therefore able to follow Christ and imitate Christ. By baptism, we become dead to sin. The baptised should realise this transformation: "Know you not that all we, who are baptised in Christ Jesus, are baptised in his death? for we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4). Baptised persons are new human being. As new human beings Christians are expected to reflect the newness of life!
In his letter to the Ephesians St. Paul presented the picture: "If so be that you have heard him, and have been taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus: To put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error. And he renewed in the spirit of your mind: And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth" (Ephesians 4:21-24). The new human beings are still human beings but they have been transformed into new human beings alter the image of Jesus Christ. Anointed by the Holy Spirit, they arc guided by the Spirit and no longer by the flesh. It is important to understand what the flesh is. It is not the physical body that is the flesh in question but the attitude or mindset that is worldly. The flesh is all about worldliness. It may be difficult for some to understand the implications of worldliness. jesus Christ himself gave the teaching that should help us to understand this. Jesus came into the world in the physical flesh (sec John 1:14) in order to change the world. In his prayer he said, "And now f am not in the world, and these arc in the world, and I come to thee, Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me, that they may be one, as we are one ... I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am also not of the world. 1 pray not that they shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil. They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, 1 also have sent them into the world. And tor them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth" (John I 7:l()-i9). We Christians are in the world but we are not, of the world. Our mindset or attitude is not worldly, of the world. Jesus Christ has transformed the world for his followers and all Christians should have the Christ-like mindset while in the world. St. Paul brings this out: "And be not conformed la the world, but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2).
Why are Christians required to live and act differently from others? Worldly human beings, human beings of the flesh are corrupt and sinful. Their minds are soaked in sin and evil. We Christian born of the Holy Spirit must avoid that type of mind and behaviour. Let us listen again to St. Paul: "1 say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, For the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest which arc fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like" (Galatians 5:19-21). Are you a Christian, a true Christian? Avoid living in the way of the flesh, tor those who do "shall not obtain the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:2 f). As Si. Paul wrote, people who were not yet baptised were prone to such immoral behaviours: "Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God. Do not err:
neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of Cod. And such some of you were; but washed, but you were sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Christians sanctified and justified by the Holy Spirit by Baptism should not go back to live by the flesh but should persevere in living by the Spirit. My sisters and brothers, there are many people who were baptised but have continued to live by the Mesh! Some 'are pursuing false gods such as Ogwugwu and some are involved in witchcraft, charms, and masquerades that deal with pagan culls and violence. Sexual immorality is rampart. Corruption and dishonesty are seen among many who call themselves "Christians." In the name of Jesus Christ, 1 call on all the baptised to live by the Spirit whom they received at Baptism and Confirmation- Living in the Spirit will be evident in the lifestyle of the person, it will manliest the fruit o! the Spirit: "charity, joy. peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continence, chastity" (Galatians 5:22 -23). Look at the result: "And they that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscence, if we live in the Spirit, lei us also walk in the Spirit!" (Galatians 5:24-25). St. John gives us the similar message connecting the flesh with the world: "Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but of the world" (I John 2:15-16).
My Sister and my brothers, my dear people of God, remember always who you are and live in such a way that you are always following Jesus Christ, the Way, the truth and the Life ( See John 15:6). He wants us to observe all things which he has commanded us. If we do that, he promised to be with us all days even to the consummation of the world, that is eternal life (See Matthew 28:20). Christians, live in the Spirit and not according to the disordered desires of the flesh and the world so that we can live faithfully with Christ in this world and with Him forever in heaven!
Nota bene! The biblical texts are from the Catholic Bible Version in the internet which I had to use as I wrote this letter on my journey to USA!