I gave a homily last Corpus Christi entitled CHRISTIFY. I drew my inspiration from that famous liturgical song composed by Fr. Manoling Francisco, which is about the Eucharist as a sacrament. The song expresses the act of faith that we make at the Eucharistic celebration, when, at the moment of consecration through the presider’s laying on of hands, the gifts of bread and wine are CHRISTIFIED. We even invented a word for it in theology: TRANS-SUBSTANTIATION. That the bread and wine, upon consecration, become the TRUE PRESENCE of Christ’s Body and Blood.
Today, as we gather for this annual celebration of our traditional Chrism Mass, I wish to use that word CHRISTIFY again. But I wish to apply it this time, not just on the bread and wine but on the whole Church, on us as a community of disciples, and how we are supposed to understand our life and mission as individuals who have been anointed. Anointed with the oil of the catechumenate before baptism, anointed with the Chrism at baptism, confirmation, and ordination (for deacons, priests and bishops), and anointed with the oil of healing for the sick. Even our altars at which we feed on the Christified bread and wine, they too are anointed. It means we have been Christified and we renew this Christification every year.
What am I saying? I am telling you that before we can even believe in bread and wine being Christified, we have to make an act of faith in our own Christification at baptism and confirmation, and the Christification of those called to the ordained ministry, precisely to nurture the Christified life of the whole Church. You have heard me say this many times before, and I dare say it with conviction again, TO BE A CHRISTIAN is not just to be disciple of follower of Christ; it is a call TO BE CHRIST, to become part of the corporate Christ we call the CHURCH, to take part in the LIFE AND MISSION OF CHRIST who is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Why? Because we have been anointed ourselves. That is what Christ literally means. Its origin is the Greek Christos, which is a translation from the Hebrew Mashiah, which is the origin of the word MESSIAH, which means The Anointed One. THat is why if there is one thing we will never stop doing—it is what we are doing on this day: the consecration of our holy oils and Chrism. Again, why? Because it is the very essence of our lives as Christians. We are an anointed people.
A few weeks ago, one of my nieces had her youngest daughter baptized in a Catholic Church in Thailand where her family resides. When she announced the event to our family group chat, she used the word CHRISTENING. We are not so used to that word anymore in the Philippines. We just call it BAPTISM. But I think we should never lose that term. Take note, we don’t call it CHRISTIANIZING, or turning a child into a Christian. Rather we say, CHRISTENING, which literally means BECOMING CHRIST. In other words, CHRISTIFIED, made into Christ.
We are not only disciples of the Christ, the Anointed One of God. We share in his anointing, meaning, we have been anointed to participate in his life and mission as Messiah. THat is what the anointing is for.
But please, make no mistake about it. This is not about developong a messianic complex. “Messianic complex” is a mental illness—like, when you think you can save the world. No, we have no such illusion about saving the world. We proclaim only one Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ. But we have been CHRISTIFIED or CHRISTENED to take part in the life and mission of the Messiah, his mission of redemption. We can only do it IN HIS NAME, IN HIS PERSON.
We have to go back to the prophet Isaiah’s oracle as proclaimed in our first reading to remind ourselves what participation in Christ’s messianic life is about. The prophet says, “The Lord has anointed me” meaning, EMPOWERED ME to BRING ABOUT THE EMPOWERMENT of those in this world who are disempowered, disenfranchised, those who are regarded as nothing. It was Isaiah who invented one word for it: to EVANGELIZE. It is not about indoctrinating or proselytizing. It is about BRINGING GOOD NEWS to those who are most in need of it.
For Isaiah, bringing good news is the generic summary for what follows, “to bring healing to the brokenhearted, freedom to those who are enslaved, to work for the liberation of those who are oppressed, to bring comfort to those who are grieving.” It is to anoint people with the oil of gladness that will take away the veil of grief that covers their lives, and to replace it with a glorious mantle of a life of meaning and purpose.
These are the words that Isaiah pronounced as an oracle on the Israelite people. They are the same words that Jesus proclaimed in the synagogue in our Gospel reading. And every year, we proclaim the same words on the Church, on ourselves, as an anointed people. Isaiah prophesies is; Jesus fulfills it. Isaiah foretells it for the future. Jesus fulfills it in the here and now.
On this day, every year, we are to remind ourselves what we have been anointed for. That we no longer live for ourselves. St. Paul says that. Let me rephrase it, “we are not to live for ourselves anymore. We are not to die for ourselves either. If we are to live at all, we must live for the Lord, and if we die at all, we must die for the Lord…” We live the life of Christ. But we cannot live in Christ without dying to ourselves.
To be anointed is to say, “My life no longer belongs to me. It belongs to Christ in whom we live and move and have our being.” We have received the Spirit as a gift without cost, we are to share it as a gift without cost. Not just to fellow Christians but to every fellow human being, to the whole world, to all creation. We have been gifted to give, we have been blessed to be a blessing.
It is with this in mind that Pope Francis is calling on the whole Church to promote synodality, to learn to walk together with every fellow human being, to learn to foster communion, participation and mission. That will be for my homily when we launch it in our diocese simultaneously with all local churches around the world on October 17.