“Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies round about. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.’” (1 Samuel 10:1)
Today’s first reading gives us the ancient origin of the sacraments. The moment Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it over the head of Saul, he instantly became the king of Israel. The pouring of the oil over Saul’s head was in itself a prayer and this type of prayer is called a sacrament.
A sacrament is something we see physically happening yet imparting a deep spiritual effect in our lives. It is an outward sign of inward grace (i.e. unmerited favour). Baptism is a sacrament, it is a prayer in action, likewise, Holy Orders (Ordination) is a sacrament that turns a man into a priest. By his anointing at ordination, the priest is bestowed with powers that make him capable of standing in the place of Christ at the altar.
Oil is also used at Confirmation which turns a baptised Christian into a soldier of Christ. At the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, oil is used to bring about healing. St. James wrote: “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. …” (James 5:14-15). To be anointed is more than the mere act of pouring oil on someone. God must be involved. As we read in today’s first reading, it was God who said to Samuel: “Here is the man who shall rule over my people.” (1st Samuel 9:17).
In our Gospel passage, we see the touching story of Levi, the tax collector. Unlike the many who followed Jesus wherever He went, Levi was at his duty post in the tax collection office when Jesus passed by and said: “follow me.” Like Saul in our first reading, Levi was chosen and appointed to be one of the disciples. In the same way, we are all chosen; we did not merit our calling but what we do with it matters. While Levi became a great apostle, Saul did not do well as a king.
The fact that one is anointed, chosen, ordained, consecrated or has received the sacraments does not remove a person’s habits, thoughts, desires, and sinful inclinations. He or she remains a human being prone to temptations and weaknesses. The sacraments are capable of making us saints but not without our cooperation. One may be anointed but if he or she does not make serious efforts to be close to God, the effects of the anointing would soon fade away. Like Levi and Saul, you have been called by God and anointed sacramentally, strive daily to make the best use of it.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, help me to live up to the demands of my anointing. Amen
Bible Study: 1 Sam. 9:1-4,17-19,10:1, Ps. 21:2-7, Mark 2:13-17).