Thursday, February 21, 2019

你們要赦免,也就蒙赦免(路6:37)

我仍然滿懷希望,天主最終能贏得她的心,將一個判斷和譴責的心轉化為一顆慈悲和寬恕的心。


相當難以置信地,我在天主教中華殉道聖人堂主持的聖經研討聚會(BSP),已超過十六年。每年的聖經研討聚會,對作為領航員的我,及參與這事工的組長、參加者和志願工作者,在不同程度上都是美好的祝福。BSP 不僅幫助我們大家定期研讀聖經,還使我們繼續在靈修上成長,並把我們的生活建基於天主聖言 — 而聖言是「萬有之先就有」和「萬有都賴他而存在」的(哥1:17)。

今個主日的福音讓我想起了一位 BSP 的參加者,在課程中,她至少問過我五、六次,為什麼耶穌要求我們「愛你們的仇人,善待他們」(路 6:35)。很明顯,我沒有很成功地給她一個令人信服的答案,否則她不會一遍又一遍地問同樣的問題。一向樂觀的我,並不認為她揮之不去的懷疑是我的失敗。反之,我認為在她的懷疑背後,是基督宗教其中最困難的條件之一; 是一個很少人能夠掌握的條件。於那些能够做到的少數人來說,如果他們沒有一顆被聖神徹底點燃的心,及一個毫無保留地接受天主的愛的決心,他們就不可能成功。在本主日的第一篇讀經,我們就面對面見到這樣的一個人 – 達味。

「我的靈魂,請向上主讚頌,我的五內,請向主名讚頌」(詠 103:1)。本主日的《答唱詠》中,達味對天主毫無保留的愛,顯而易見。 「上主富於仁慈寬恕,極其慈悲,遲於發怒。他沒有按我們的罪惡對待我們,也沒有照我們的過犯報復我們。」(詠 103: 8,10)。達味非常明白自己的所犯的罪,他一次又一次經歷了天主的慈悲,他知道他無法在天主面前宣稱正義並譴責他的敵人。撒烏耳在他的邪惡中可能多次背叛和迫害達味; 他可能給了達味充足的理由去謀反和報復。 但是達味知道憐憫他的天主希望他對他人仁慈,特別是對撒烏耳這位上主的受傅者,達味必不得加害(參見 撒上 26:23)。

「你們應當慈悲,就像你們的父那樣慈悲。你們不要判斷,你們也就不受判斷;不要定罪,也就不被定罪;你們要赦免,也就蒙赦免。」(路 6:36-37)。我不能確定這位參加了BSP十六年的朋友是否有機會閱讀這篇文章。如果這麼多年來,我無法說服她寬恕她的敵人,我不奢望這篇簡短的反思能夠做到這一點。但我仍然滿懷希望 — 希望只要她繼續參加 BSP,並把自己的生命建基於天主的聖言上,上主最終必能贏得她的心,將一個判斷和譴責的心轉化為一顆慈悲和寬恕的心。亞孟。

Saturday, February 16, 2019

一生何求?



這十多天頗充實,完成很多工作。昨夜難得熟睡,雖較遲起牀,還可以在Starbucks買咖啡前,環繞Toogood Pond步行一週。零下七八度氣温加風速,但陽光普照。厚雪和冰地上獨步前行,倍感詩意。

其實人一生重要的不是要做很多事情,重要的是活好天主賜給我們的每一刻。無論處人或處事,都按真理而行;無論工作或娛樂,都彰顯著基督。「我生活已不是我生活,而是基督在我內生活。」(迦拉達書2:20)能這樣做,每人都可以平安面對最終審判(默示錄20:11ff)。

對,總有做得不好的時候,但天主不是要我們憑自己力量去達到完美。祂不是這樣無理的。祂體悉人的軟弱,「因為我們所有的,不是一位不能同情我們弱點的大司祭,而是一位在各方面與我們相似,受過試探的,只是沒有罪過」的主(希伯來人書4:15);天主已為我們準備了基督救恩,去彌補一切人努力的不足。祂要求的是我们真心地,全力奮勉地做,力求止於至善,其餘的祂自會照料:「正為了這個原故,你們要全力奮勉,在你們的信仰上還要加毅力...。」(伯多禄後書1:5,創世記22:14))

感謝主!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

像天堂臨於人間的加拿大


今晨零下十一度,加上風速,感觉寒度是零下二十,但陽光普照。

從Starbucks買了咖啡回家途中,收音机傳來七十年代Anne Murray 的 Danny's Song (even though we ain't got money)。 這首歌加上今天早上天氣陽光,讓我感觉上像回到七十年代的温沙大學校園。

那些日子有苦有甜,但可說後者遠遠超越前者。在各方面這段时间都是自己非常重要的成長期,是自己生命旅途極関鍵性的一個階段,也佈下了今天在加拿大永久居留的伏線。

想著,想著,心裡充滿無限感恩;一方面感謝天主的引领和垂顧,另一方面也感谢加拿大這片美好的國土。就像今天早上的陽光,她送給我溫情無限,就像天堂臨於人間!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Love Story Like No Other

This marriage of heaven and earth between Christ and his Church is the crown jewel of God’s new Creation, ushered in by Christ Incarnate who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” according to John (Jn 1:14).



“As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you;
And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” (Is. 62:5)

Want to know whether you really understand the Bible well? Take a simple test: What’s your immediate reaction on hearing the above verses from this Sunday’s first reading? Are you “cut to the heart”, the way the three thousand persons were on the prompting of the Holy Spirit after hearing Peter’s first sermon (c.f. Acts 2:37-41)? Do you feel like you’re left thunderstruck? Are you filled with excitement, edging to jump up and down, as though some firecrackers in your pants had just got ignited? Excuse the language but you’ve got the idea. If my words come across as too much of a melodrama, I’m just telling you my personal experience.

In the passage, God is addressing Israel through prophet Isaiah. If we hear Him right, He is saying He wants to marry Israel. O, my Lord! Who is “Israel”? The historical nation of Israel or some mysterious entity that God has fallen in love with? Why would God want to marry Israel, whoever that is? How is this divine-human marriage going to be consummated? What is it like to live in a conjugal relationship with our Creator who created us? To think about it, just asking these questions is reason enough for us to doubt our own sanity!

Fortunately, whenever we lose our way in reading the Bible, the Church Magisterium always comes to our rescue.

Simply put, Israel is us – “the Church of Christ”, “the new Israel” (LG 9). The Israel of old is but a prefiguration of the Church, “the new Israel” (LG 2, 9). “While on earth [the Church] journeys in a foreign land” as though she’s in exile, advancing and “[pressing] forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God” until she is fully glorified and received into the Kingdom of God (LG 6, 8). God wants to “marry us” in the sense that He wants His Church to enter into a faithful and everlasting communion with Him. Like the loving and one-body conjugal union between husband and wife in an earthly marital relationship, our intimate, union with God is free, faithful, fruitful, and total (without reservation). Its consummation is the new and everlasting covenant that our Lord, Jesus, has instituted and sealed by shedding his own blood and offering his own life for us on the Cross, making us mysteriously his Body – the Body of Christ (LG n.9, 1 Cor 11:23-25, Lk 22:20).

Espoused to Christ, the bridal Church renews the new and everlasting covenant every time she celebrates the Eucharist, enabling her to live in conjugal union with her husband, Jesus, in one Body (Eph 5:23). Yes, we risk losing our sanity if we insist on pushing our reasoning faculty to its limits to try to understand exactly what this conjugal relationship is like. After all, as the great Apostle teaches, “this is a great mystery” (Eph 5:32). In full consciousness of the Mystical Body of Christ and living in conjugal union with her husband who is her head (1 Cor 12:13, Eph 5:23), the Church must rejoice and “proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations”, this Sunday’s responsorial Psalm chants in jubilation (Ps. 96:3).

This marriage of heaven and earth between Christ and his Church is the crown jewel of God’s new Creation, ushered in by Christ Incarnate who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” according to John (Jn 1:14). The incarnation of Christ is the “marriage” between divinity and humanity. It’s the theme that John uses to begin his gospel, starting from a Genesis-like, 7-day account of the New Creation, and culminating in the “sign” of the wedding of Cana (c.f. Jn 2:11), this Sunday’s gospel reading - a sign that points us to the fulfillment of God’s promise to marry Israel (Is 62:5).

In the final account, the Bible is really a love story from the beginning to the end. It begins with the broken marriage of Adam and Eve and ends with the joyful marriage of Christ (New Adam) and his Church (New Eve) in heaven (c.f. Rev 19). It truly is a romance like no other!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Fear God, Honor the King (1 Peter 2:17)


We have a "Bible Corner" in our parish. It's a notice board where we put up a different poster every month using a theme related to the passages being studied in our Bible Study Program (the program I conduct on every 4th Friday of the month). Attached is the poster of this month. It was designed by our Bible Corner volunteers. It's really beautiful and creative. Just want to share it with our blog viewers.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Woman Who Makes Christmas Great

Jesus is our Lord and the reason why we celebrate Christmas. But in this Christmas, let’s also remember the woman who makes it great.


The day is edging to leave earlier, receding far below the horizons when mother earth is still unprepared for the looming darkness. The night…O, how she drags her feet shamelessly and overstays her welcome! With temperatures falling, light snow drifting, and the winds picking up speed, one doesn’t really need the busy downtown streets and the packed shopping malls to confirm that Christmas is here. Uncomfortable weather conditions aside, Christmas is always the time of the year when our hearts suddenly regain affections for the people around us; and our countenance, stern and robotic all year long, suddenly regains its human expressions. In this beautiful Christmas season, elodocuments would like to wish our readers peace, joy, and many wonderful blessings from the Lord! Now, let’s turn our thoughts to the Mass readings of the last Sunday of Advent - already filled with a festive, yuletide flavor as it is - to reflect on the woman who makes Christmas great for all of us.

"Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth cries out loud on seeing Mary in this Sunday’s gospel. How is Mary blessed? Mary is blessed in many ways. We will count two of them in this cursory reflection.

She is blessed because she’s the woman foretold by the prophets to give birth to Christ, our Savior. This Sunday’s first reading is a prophecy of great significance from Micah, a Judean prophet who lived about 700 years before Jesus. He announces the coming of two critical figures: a woman “who is to give birth” in Bethlehem to “the ruler in Israel Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Mi 5:1-2). The ruler the woman gives birth to “shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD…and…his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace” (Mi 5:3-4). Who is this woman? Who is the child she gives birth to? Inspired by the Holy Spirit, St. Matthew applies Micah’s prophecy to Mary and her infant, Jesus (cf. Mt. 2:4-11).

Mary is also blessed because she is the woman prefigured by special women of faith and courage in the OT. Whether it’s the first woman of the Bible, Eve, from whom the whole human race descends; or women of barrenness - Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah - whose special pregnancies are the gifts of God; or women of lowliness like Rahab (a harlot who helped Joshua and Israel to conquer Jericho (cf. Jos 2:8ff)) and Ruth (a gentile woman married to Boaz, from whose line Jesus descends (cf. Mt 1:5)); or women of courage and liberation like Esther and Judith; or women of queenship like the queen mothers of the kings of Judah (particularly Bathsheba, the queen mother of Solomon (cf. 1 Kgs 2:19)); every one of these OT women is chosen by God to point us to Mary, the woman who mothers the whole human race spiritually, conceives miraculously in spite of “barrenness” (“I have no relations with a man” (Lk 1:34)), humbles herself as “the handmaid of the Lord”, assists Jesus in the salvation and liberation of mankind as his Co-Redemptrix, and is enthroned by her Son as the heavenly Queen Mother.

Mary is the woman of history. Together, Eve and Mary form the bookends of the Bible, one inaugurating the long history of salvation with human woes due to her disobedience, the other bringing it to a joyous conclusion because of her obedience. This is why Mary is called the New Eve and why she is succinctly identified by St. Irenaeus as the woman who unties the knots of Eve’s disobedience.

What’s in between the two bookends of the Bible, i.e. in between Eve in Genesis and Mary in Revelation (the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet)? Another woman, the bride in the book of the Song of Songs – a book purposely placed at the center of the Bible. The sweet romance between the bride and her groom, laid bare in the biblical centerfold, points us to the sweet romance between the Marian Church (the bride, the mother, the New Eve) and the Lord Jesus (the groom, the New Adam). It’s only appropriate that the Bible should conclude with the Marian Church – the woman, the bride – urging her journeying husband to return: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).

Jesus is our Lord and the reason why we celebrate Christmas. But in this Christmas, let’s also remember the woman who makes it great.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The “Little Apocalypse”

Are we nearing the day of the sun darkening, the moon losing its light, and the stars falling from the sky?



The gospel reading of Sunday November 18, 2018 (33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time) comes from one of the most difficult sections of Mark that is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse or “Little Apocalypse” (Mark 13:1-37). It’s so named because the discourse between Jesus and his four apostles - Peter, James, John, and Andrew - took place while Jesus “was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple area”, and its literary style is dominated by apocalyptic and prophetic symbolism (Mark 13:3).

Hard to miss is the eschatological overtone of the gospel reading: “[I]n those days…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken”; “and then [the Son of Man] will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth” (Mark 13:24-25, 27). ). The nerve-racking, end-of-the world language that begins with visions of the celestial bodies in disarray, rises to a crescendo with the appearance of the “Son of Man” - the royal, Messianic figure in Daniel 7 whose enthronement in heaven caps off the Last Day – and ends in a thunderous blast when Jesus warns that “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” (Mark 13:30).

If there’s any doubt about the theme of this Sunday’s readings in spite of the eschatological language of the gospel reading, the first reading, also from the Book of Daniel, is selected to drive home the prophetic warning that the day is coming when the whole human race – from now to ancient times, from the current generation to Adam and Eve - must witness the unthinkable occurrence of the resurrection and the Last Judgement. "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace”, Daniel predicts (Daniel 12:2).

A key difficulty of the Olivette Discourse is that what is apparently a depiction of the end of the world that includes cosmic and catastrophic atrocities is predicted to occur at a time that is plainly inaccurate if understood literally. According to Jesus, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” (Mk 13:30), which suggests that the fulfillment of these eschatological events would have already taken place within the lifetime of his contemporaries. If that’s the case, why are we still here two thousand years later, alive and kicking?

When it comes to biblical exegesis (interpreting the various passages of the Bible), it’s important to understand the difference between the literal sense and the spiritual sense (see CCC 115-119). Literally, “the sun darkened”, the moon losing light, “the stars falling from the sky” (cf. Mark 13:24-25) suggest physical, cosmic disturbances. Spiritually these visions of heavenly chaos can be understood as God’s judgment against the pagan ways of Jerusalem which in Jesus’ time had deteriorated to an unseen level in terms of faith and morality (see commentary of Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament on this passage). The final punishment of Jerusalem, mentioned repeatedly by the OT prophets and Jesus himself, would be so sweeping and devastating that it could only be described in end-of-the-world language. In 70 AD, which is well within the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporaries, a large Roman army under the generalship of Vespasian, the future Roman Emperor Titus, besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, demolishing the 500-hundred-year-old Temple, plundering the whole city, and killing 1.1 million people, of which the majority were Jewish. The rest is history.

For real-life application, let us end this reflection with a few thought-provoking questions: Given the “pagan ways” of our world today and its new lows in morality and faith, can we see the city of Jerusalem of 70 AD as the prefiguration of the world we live in? As the residents of this “world city”, are we in danger of an imminent and devastating destruction that might sweep away not only a city but the whole world? Are we nearing the day of the sun darkening, the moon losing its light, and the stars falling from the sky?