BY: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)



*Act 11: 19 – 26, Jn 10: 22 – 30.

Nothing makes me angry like seeing some people describe Christianity as the white man’s religion; as a mere weapon of colonialism or even more barnally, as business. Church history has it (as recorded in today’s 1st reading) that those who scattered because of the persecutions that arose after the martyrdom of St Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch speaking the Word of God even to the Greeks. This gave rise to the first major fracas the Church had – the problem of Hellenism. Barnabas was one of the earliest heroes in this story. He was sent by the Church in Jerusalem to Antioch. The Bible says that ‘When he came and saw the grace of God (even among non Jews) he was glad and exhorted them to remain faithful’. The next thing he did was to go fetch the most learned man of the time St Paul from Tarsus to come and give Christianity its true universal, multicultural and cosmopolitan colour which it has today. So, the Christian Church finally became a ‘Catholic Church’. Its centre had to shift to Rome only because Rome (like America is today) was the centre of world power. Inculturation( which started in the Church as early as the apostolic period) was animated all the more by the Vatican II and today, there is little or nothing about the Christian faith that could be essentially be called “western”.

Let us look at 4 things that qualified people as ” real Christians”;

1. Faith in Christ; Christians must know Christ and firmly believe in him as a saviour who is God. The Bible says that ‘Jesus is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercessions for them’, Heb 7: 25.

2. Holiness through Christ; Christians manifest the holiness that Christ taught. He said: ‘ Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’, Matt 5: 20. They live in the world as in a boat – useful in the water, but not when the water is in the boat. Similarly, Christians must live in the world but not allow the spirit of the world to be in them, Jn 17: 16.

3. Communion with Christ; You cannot be a Christian if you don’t have perfect communion with Christ on a daily basis. You must be attached to him as the branch of a vine is to its shoot, Jn 15: 1 – 15. You must fellowship with him, hear his Word everyday and also eat/ drink his blood everyday if possible.

4. Fellowship with one another; Christians must love one another for love is of God and whoever fails to love does not know God, 1 Jn 4 : 7 – 8. Christ said: ‘By this all men shall know that you are Christians …if you love one another as I have loved you’, Jn13 : 35. As a matter of fact, this is the secret of the growth of the first Christian community in Antioch. The Bible recorded that Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. He went and brought Paul who was more talented than him to be his Assistant Parish Priest. People saw so much love among them after one year and a large community gathered around them. And for the first time they were called “Christians”. This is the real nature (quintessence) of Christianity, not any rigid structures, dogmatic and cultural underpinnings. May God bless you today!

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