Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jesus Brings Glad Tidings on Christmas

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,” (Is. 61:1) proclaimed the prophet Isaiah in the first reading of the third Sunday of Advent.

Back in my university days, I wasn't particularly attached to the Bible. I was more interested in reading philosophy. But Isaiah’s prophetic passage above never failed to touch me deeply whenever I heard it proclaimed. When recited by Luke in his gospel within the setting of Jesus standing in a synagogue, slowly unrolling a scroll of Isaiah, and reading it out to an enchanted and expectant congregation on Sabbath, the prophetic passage took on a new meaning of fulfillment (c.f. Luke 4:16-21) - fulfilled not only in the very person who read it, i.e. Jesus, the Anointed One, but also in the listener to whom it was proclaimed, i.e. me.

I, a foreign student struggling to make ends meet, was the poor; not only because of corporeal deprivation but also because of spiritual destitution. I was the brokenhearted, not only because my life then was filled with hardships but also because the deepest yearnings of my young heart – for love and dignity, for justice and righteousness, for happiness and the truth – somehow just could not be satisfied. I was the captive, captive of so many unrealistic dreams, captive of my own youthful passions. I was the prisoner, chained hands and feet by sin, incarcerated body and soul by the unrelenting grip of death. I was in dire need of the Anointed One’s glad tidings, healing, liberation, and freedom.

When my university chaplain, a young and exceedingly kind Basilian priest whose mission it was to help the lowly and marginalized, told me that in Jesus I could find my glad-tidings Provider, my Healer, my Liberator, and my Freedom, I dived right into his RCIA to find out whether Jesus was really the Savior who could solve all my personal problems. Finally at the Easter of my third year of university, I was baptized into the Catholic Church. Here I am 37 years later, I can honestly say that Jesus has given me everything Isaiah promised and more. There is not a day my heart doesn’t rejoice together with Mary, his mother, in the Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

Yet our journey of faith is a long one, full of ups and downs and potential pitfalls. Like John the Baptist in the gospel reading, we must properly discern the role that God in His infinite wisdom wants each one of us to do. John identified his role as “the voice of one crying out in the desert”; he saw himself as the precursor that “make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23). He was determined to serve the Lord in this humble capacity even though many of his followers wanted to make him the Messiah. In this Advent, let us discern with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit what our role is. What is the ministry that God wants us to serve? And in serving it, “may the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you…be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 5:23).

Monday, December 1, 2014

God Will Deliver If We Have Faith

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Glory and praise to the Lord!

What a Gala last night! This is the morning after. Hope everyone had a good night of sleep, having heard the good news about the peaceful settlement of the FLL-S+L dispute. Not me. My head is a little heavy from lack of sleep last night. Still trying to recover from the "shock" my team and I went through in the last few days, even if it was a pleasant one. The euphoria – at least for me – from the FLL Gala last night and being in the middle of a huge crowd of nine hundred plus people certainly compounded the problem even more. But it’s a nice problem to have…

It’s not appropriate for me to delve too much into the specifics of what happened, not at this point. But this much I can say: this sharing is a sequel to, and hopefully also the conclusion of, a post I wrote with a heavy heart about a year ago: Blessed Are They Who Are Persecuted For the Sake of Righteousness.

My head is still spinning and I can't remember if I mentioned this to my team during this whirlwind-like process of the last few days in which things unfolded in rapid succession like a floodgate that broke open. One thing that we gained from this long and difficult ordeal is the comradeship of our team members. It's a bonding, a unity or solidarity, if you will, that jelled gradually through a long and agonizing process that took us through the thick and thin, the highs and lows, the triumph and the devastation. This is the "imperishable crown" that we won from this painstaking and excruciating race! (Cf. 1 Cor 9:24-25) While we don’t do good for the sake of getting merits, I’m convinced that this is a great merit that God granted us for our perseverance to follow Christ come hell or high water. It’s going to stay with us; and we’ll bring it with us on that day when the Lord judges the nations assembled before Him and “separates them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from goats” (Mt. 25:32).

It's by no means easy. Sometimes we were just hanging on by a thread, determined all the while to walk in the truth and, if it's God's will, ready to accept martyrdom. There were times when we felt like we were "shadowboxing" (cf. 1 Cor 9:26), that we were standing up against a mighty and unstoppable train hurtling toward us at maddening speed. In the end, it was God who gave us strength and saw us through. It took the courageous and determined intervention of a living saint whose body was completely drained of energy due to terminal illness; and the miraculous intercession of a heavenly saint – St. Mary Goretti – whose incorruptible body will be on its way to visit this part of the world when the Holy Father comes in the summer.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins. Amen! Amen! Amen!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What A King Truly Looks Like

In celebrating the feast of Christ the King, one would expect the Mass readings to showcase Jesus, the Messianic King, reigning supreme in heavenly glory. One would expect to hear scriptural passages such as the final triumph of Christ, the “King of kings and Lord of lords”, over all forces of evil (cf. Revelation 19:11-15); or perhaps the Ascension, in which the exalted Christ was crowned with glory at the right hand of God (cf. Mk 16:19).

Not quite.

What we hear instead is a God whose greatest concern is his sheep, which are “scattered”, in need of “rest”, “strayed”, and “injured”; sheep that need to be shepherded rightly (see the 1st reading). Why are passages such as this the focus of the Christ the King celebration? What does shepherding have to do with Jesus’ kingship?

To God, a king should care about his people the way a shepherd cares about his flock: his duty, first and foremost, is to safeguard the well-being of the people that God entrusted to him. A king’s position of authority is given to him to serve and not to dictate, to give and not to receive, to empty himself (as Jesus did in emptying himself and sacrificing his life for us) and not to inflate. Unlike all the self-serving kings in history who misused the authority that God gave them for self-gratification, Jesus, the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16) will take care of his people like a Good Shepherd. For “the Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1), chanted David, whose unique position as a shepherd king is already a prefiguration of Christ. No wonder in the gospel reading, we are told that when the Son of Man comes in his glory, “all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Mt 25:32).

This is a powerful message for everyone in a leadership position to reflect on. Kings and governors, clergy and church leaders, teachers and parents: Are you using your God-given authority and resources for the edification of the people entrusted to your care and not for your own self-gratification? Do you use your power to serve or to oppress? Are you good shepherds? Your honest answers to these questions may well determine where Jesus, the Shepherd King, will place you when he returns in his glory. You will either join the sheep on his right that go off to eternal life, or find yourselves among the goats on his left that are bound for eternal punishment (cf. Mt. 25:33,46).

As we conclude this reflection on Christ the King, let’s lift up our gaze to the Crucifix where Pilate’s inscription “INRI” (Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews), ominously displayed atop the Cross and strategically placed above the battered and bloodied body of the crucified Christ, reminds the world what a king truly looks like.

The above is my reflection on the Mass readings of Christ the King, 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – November 23, 2014:
Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46

Monday, October 27, 2014

Remembering the Departed

The days are getting shorter and the temperatures noticeably lower. Along with the earlier dusk and chillier weather, the green foliage of summer, so full and exuberant only a few weeks ago, suddenly looks dull and withered. Here and there the winds playfully swirl about to scatter the falling leaves. Fall has arrived. Nature has its way of reminding us of the seasonal rhythm that it adheres to so religiously. In a very special way, it also reminds us of our loved ones who have departed….

Quite fittingly, the Church chooses to commemorate the departed faithful at this time of the year. Those of us whose heartstrings are pulled by the melancholy of the rhythm of nature to miss their departed ones will find comfort in the gospel reading of the Feast of All Souls, in which Jesus promises resurrection and eternal life for “everyone who sees the Son and believes in him” (Jn 6:40). Our hope, steadfast as it is, is rooted in Jesus’ own resurrection. As St. Paul explains so convincingly in the second reading, if death cannot overpower Christ, the Son of God, we know that it has also lost its jurisdiction over the “sons of God” whose adopted sonship is granted because of their faith in Christ.

The departed ones may look like the fallen leaves that we step on at this time of the year – nothing but decay, destitution, and utter destruction – and yet “they are in peace…they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself” (Wis 3:3, 5).

This Sunday when we celebrate the All Souls Day, our hearts go out to those who are grieving their departed family members and friends; especially to those whose loved ones have recently passed away. Let us pray in one accord for the repose of their souls…

(The above is a reflection on the Mass Readings of the 31st Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A, Feast of All Souls – November 2, 2014: Wis 3:1-9; Rom 6:3-9; Jn 6:37-40)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

香港! 我的香港! 原來我仍愛妳!

剛從大统華出來,在那裡鑽了半天,因為太太有命要在那裡尋找很多減價貨品,和要訂定火雞,以便週末感恩節和朋友在家裡聚餐。每次進出華人活動的地方時,心中很自然地浮現著香港的種種景象,既熟絡,又親切。由於過去數天在香港發生的大事,在人頭湧湧的大统華內,這親切和熟絡的感覺,更形强烈。

關於香港最近的民運事件,我已先後在網誌上發表過四篇拙作。感謝主,今事件暫告一段落,雙方從街上對峙轉移到談判桌上對話,總算如多數人所願,避免了進一步的暴力、血腥和仇恨。在此刻,縱使事態仍未明朗,大家總算能暫時舒一口氣。

這次事件讓我看見自己埋藏心中多年,對生於斯、長於斯的香港的感情仍未泯滅;結婚前一天在维園參加九一八静坐示威的傻氣仍存。這感情就像分手多年的情侶,一旦愛火重燃,便一發不可收拾;也像不和的母子,雙方縱存隔閡,但親情卻不能斬斷。星期日那天,在網上看著青春可愛的學生們被防暴隊用棍打,用胡椒噴霧噴射,用催淚彈襲擊,心裡哀痛莫名,熱淚奪眶而出。

香港! 我的香港! 縱使妳我闊別寒暑數十,縱使妳可能已不再愛我,但原來我仍愛妳!不過,妳為甚麽竟變成這樣?

香港! 我的香港! 妳怎能忘記妳的子女?妳既然對這些青春可愛的臉面,這些留在家中事奉妳的子女一點也不憐惜,難道妳會記起我這個奔走遠方,頭也不回地離妳而去的兒子?然而,我又怎能假裝自己體內流著的血,不是從妳而來?

連續七、八天,香港南華早報成了我每刻鐘瀏灠一次或多次的網頁,內心時時刻刻記掛著香港局勢的演變。

這件事也改變了我對香港青年人的觀感。我已說過我不贊成他們佔中,但過程中,他們的言談和表現卻賺取了我的好感和同情 (同情不等於贊成)。明顯地,他們不是很多人所說的「被縱懷」、「沒頭沒腦」、「只知打機和享樂」的一代。他們願意為理想站出來;一般來說,做事很有組織和條理,自制力強,顧及他人,危難中仍堅守原則,實在很難得。眼見純真的學生們被黑社會份子狂打,被無良攪事者非禮,心裡又是一陣陣的隱痛…。

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Occupy Central - Where This Blog Stands

The news coming out of Hong Kong this morning (Saturday morning, Oct 4 Toronto time; Saturday night, Oct 4, Hong Kong time) was not good: C. Y. Leung, the Chief Executive of the government of Hong Kong, allegedly threatened to clear all protest sites by Sunday so that all government and business offices could return to normal operation. At this crucial moment, it’s important to pray for peace and reason to prevail. We also wish to outline once more where this blog stands on this difficult crisis after posting three articles and publishing numerous comments from the blog viewers whose views are not necessarily in agreement with, and certainly do not reflect in any way, the position of this blog.

1. We support the pro-democracy camp’s objective of striving for democracy and freedom for the people of Hong Kong. We believe the objective in and of itself is noble and admirable.

2. While the end is noble, the means employed to achieve it is wrong-headed. Occupy Central is a “lose-lose scenario” for all parties concerned, with strong potential for violence and bloodshed. We, therefore, disagree with it.

3. We condemn the government of Hong Kong’s brutality in suppressing the pro-democracy protests on Sunday, September 28, 2014.

4. We commend the government of Hong Kong for quickly realizing its over-reaction and for reverting to more restrained strategies in handling the protesters following Sunday.

5. As this unfortunate crisis continues to unfold, our appeal is for both parties to continue to exercise restraint and to begin some form of dialogue.

6. When violent confrontations and fights erupted starting from Friday, October 3, with triad gangsters and local residents fed up with the disruptions of the protests getting involved, we call for the Hong Kong police to carry out its legislated duty of protecting the citizens, particularly the innocent student protesters, against any deceitful instigators and criminals whose goal is simply to intimidate and injure. We also call again for the leaders of the pro-democracy camp and the government to immediately stop all confrontations and begin negotiation.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Keep Safe, Hong Kong!

It always warms my heart to read messages from Hong Kong, especially in this difficult time of political turmoil. As usual, my friend, Peter (not the real name) is able to provide first-handed and objective insights that I usually can't find in the media, whether Hong Kong or local.

I agree with Peter completely. The Chinese government and its puppet, CY Leung, will not back down. At the same time, they will not order an outright crackdown. Unlike 25 years ago, China is now a rich man, a "somebody", a "big shot" on the world stage. They need to look good in conducting themselves. The "immerse and destroy from within" tactic that Peter outlined is the most effective way to solve the current crisis. People might be hired, if not already hired, to disguise as protesters and create troubles, giving the government justification to take more forceful actions to clamp down on the protesters. I think that's exactly what they've resolved to do. Not good for the pro-democracy camp if this is how it plays out. It’s a scenario that smells blood.

Unfortunately the students themselves, who are getting more and more restless and aggressive, may quicken their own demise and make the bloodshed even worse. They are threatening to take over government offices. I think the move could be disastrous. Let's hope cooler heads would prevail.

Like I said in my previous post, their message has been sent; it's loud and clear; it's been heard by the other camp and by the whole world. Now it's time for the pro-democracy camp to build on the momentum that they have gained; it's time for the two parties to sit down and engage in some kind of dialogue. Let's face it, under the rule of a repressive regime, the freedom enjoyed by Hong Kong can only be moderated at best. Hong Kongers can always try to push the envelope and gain as much freedom as possible; but do so in a peaceful and tactful way without forcing China to impose a complete crackdown; do so in a way that allows China to save face. As we know, saving face has always been a big deal to the governing officials of China. After all, they are the parent, the authority; Hong Kong is only one of their many children, albeit a little special because of its historical background and economic strength. I don't like what I see from the protesters at the moment. Let's hope somehow their aggression will stop or at least mellow.

I’d like to thank Peter for sharing so honestly. It's easier for Chinese people who live under the protection of real democracy here in Canada to be honest about their opinion; but not so much for people like Peter. God bless you, Peter! God bless the people of Hong Kong! Keep safe!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Enough Confrontation - Time for Dialogue and Prayer

I read and re-read my previous post, A Tale of Two Governments on a Very Difficult Day, many times. I don’t think I said anything to suggest that I supported the pro-democracy protesters’ move to “occupy Central”. I was saddened, as any Hong Konger should be, to see the riot police’s beastly and almost insane brutality in suppressing the demonstrators, the majority of whom were peaceful and disciplined young people armed with nothing but umbrellas, rain coats, and goggles. I thought the violent forces exerted by the Hong Kong police were excessive and unnecessary; and the tactics used provocative and miscalculated. In my article, I contrasted the Hong Kong government’s shameful and less than rational behavior on Sunday with the caring behavior exhibited by the Japanese government on the very same day in dealing with the Mount Ontake emergency.

The next day, the government of Hong Kong obviously woke up to realize its stupidity and quickly softened its approach. But the damage had been done and the horrifying news spread the world over. The iron-fisted strategy backfired: hundreds of thousands of protesters angered by the government’s shocking brutality came out in full force to occupy every important business or commercial district of Hong Kong one can think of: Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, even Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui. Condemnation of the Hong Kong government's shameful behavior against its own citizens came one after another from the various democratic countries.

Let's be clear, I am not in favor of “Occupy Central”. No question it’s illegal, as civil disobedience always is. But in the civilized world, a parent is not allowed to act against his/her children in a violent manner just because they are disobedient. Similarly, a government should not use excessive force to curb a peaceful protest of its citizens, especially the young generation who are our future.

My heart is bleeding as the confrontation between the two camps continues to escalate. This morning I heard that the pro-democracy camp gave the government of Hong Kong until Wednesday to respond to its demands. Not a wise move. The protesters should understand that their message had been sent; it was loud and clear. The beast is hurt; but it's dangerous to back it into a corner. Let’s pray that the two camps will soften their confrontational attitudes and a peaceful negotiation will quickly ensue.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Tale of Two Governments on a Very Difficult Day

On a day the government of Japan mobilized teams of rescue experts and workers to search for survivors on the slopes of Mount Ontake where about 250 hikers were trapped by an unexpected volcano eruption, the government of Hong Kong mobilized 7,000 strong riot police to suppress tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters, wielding batons and shields, deploying pepper spray, and unleashing round after round of tear gas as its citizens watched in stunning disbelief.

No matter how many years one has left Hong Kong – in my case 32 – and how remote the days of living there may seem as memories grow old, it’s impossible to watch the violent scenes and widespread unrest breaking out on the familiar streets of Hong Kong without any emotions.

“This is no longer the Hong Kong that I used to know!” muttered a protester, sobbing uncontrollably as swirls of tear gas continued to drift visibly in the background. I must echo the same sentiment, not because the city has changed so much in its outlook, but because the trust and respect between its government and its people, rooted in many years of fighting adversities together and strengthened after several decades of growing prosperity, just don’t seem to be there anymore. While a colony, Hong Kong was never at ease with Britain, its imperial ruler. Now that it’s under the wings of a country that shares its cultural and ancestral roots, one would expect the trust and respect to grow into fraternal love. Unfortunately for many Hong Kong people, Sunday, September 28, 2014 was a day of rude awakening.

The day ended with the Japanese government calling off its rescue teams, promising to intensify its rescue effort as soon as the first daylight crept over the horizon of the Sea of Japan to allow the workers to search the smoke-obscured paths. Further south where the Victoria Harbor met the South China Sea, the Hong Kong government threatened to step up its suppression should the protesters continue to refuse to disperse – a threat widely speculated to mean the use of plastic bullets.

Read similar post: Cry, My Beloved Birth Place!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

寄福傳於中國書法藝術

天主離我們不遠。的確!天主並不遙遠,很多人心中的天主是至高無上和遙不可及的。但聖經所啓示给人的天主,卻是一位忠信於人和有情的造物主。公元前八世紀時,衪曾藉先知依撒意亞給猶大王阿哈次許諾了一個貞兆,「有一位貞女要懷孕生子,給他起名叫厄瑪奴耳」(依撒意亞7:14)。厄瑪奴耳意思是「天主與我們同在」。透過童貞女瑪利亞誕下耶穌 - 即天主之子 - 天主真的與我們同在一起了。歡欣雀躍的聖若望宗徒在他的福音情不自禁地说:「聖言成了血肉,寄居在我們中間;我們見了衪的光榮!」 (若望福音1:14)

「聖言成了血肉」的耶穌意味著那位無處不在,超越時間和空間的天主,竟然謙抑自下闖進人類歷史之中。這是多麽不可思議的大事啊! 祂採用了人性,成了人去拯救我們人類;藉救恩將人提升,讓他分沾天主的神性,享有崇高的地位。正如聖亞他那修(St. Athanasius)說得那麼簡潔:「天主之子成了人子,使人子们能成為天主之子。」這真是天大喜訊!我們需要把喜訊傳揚出去!正如主耶穌在他升天前囑咐門徒說「你們要去使萬民成為門徒」(瑪竇福音28:19) 。

教會好友家靜將回港舉辦中國書法展覽;很高興她能善用天主所賜予的天賦,以中國書法的藝術來表達信仰的熱誠,把這天大喜訊傳揚出去。恭喜您,家靜!願天主祝福您福傳的努力!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

God's Way or My Way? - A Life-Defining Question

This is my reflection on the Mass readings of the 25th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A – September 21, 2014
Mass Readings: Is 55:6-9; Phil 1:20-24, 27; Mt. 20:1-16

On September 6, 1997, innumerable people around the world watched on live television broadcast the solemn and glamorous funeral of Princess Diana, conducted in the historic Westminster Abbey and attended by royals, dignitaries, and celebrities as glittering as the stars in the sky. Notable among them was Elton John, who paid tribute to the beautiful princess with a rousing performance of Candle in the Wind. 8,000 kilometres away in a small and humble chapel of Kolkata, lay quietly and without much of the world’s attention was the body of Mother Teresa, who died of cardiac arrest on the day before.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Is.55:8). If the first reading of the 25th Sunday needs any illustration, there is no better illustration than the two contrasting scenes above.

When our thoughts and God’s are not in alignment, we often find ourselves arguing with him, the way the vineyard labourers argued with the landowner in Jesus’ parable. The first labourers believed they should be given more than the usual daily wage just because the workers who came late had been given that amount, forgetting conveniently that usual daily wage was what the landowner had promised them before they started. There was no ground for their dispute since the landowner didn’t break his promise.

To think about it, the real reason for the grumbling labourers’ complaint can only be jealousy. But if the landowner wanted to be generous with his own money, why would these jealous labourers think they had the right to dispute his generosity? Actually the landowner character in Jesus’ parable is an image of God, who is free to bestow his graces as he pleases; and often does so out of mercy and compassion. After all, grace is God’s gift of love. It’s free; it cannot be earned by human works. To say that one’s effort "deserves" more grace from God is in itself a presumptuous claim that reveals a heart pregnant with pride and self-righteousness.

Like the jealous labourers who grumbled against the landowner based on a faulty understanding of fairness, people often think God is unfair in dealing with them. Is it any surprise that people with such a mindset often find God remote and unreachable? In the Responsorial Psalm, we are reminded that we should “praise [God’s] name forever and ever” because he is “gracious and merciful”, “kind”, “compassionate”, “just”, and “holy”. Indeed if we would only heed the psalmist’s reminder of God’s exemplary virtues and bring our ways in alignment with his, we would find that whatever distance separating us from him will disappear quickly, for “the Lord is near to all who call upon him”. Given time, our trivial and mindless grumbles against God because of our own blindness to the truth will stop. Only then will peace and harmony in our relationship with God prevail.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Bronze Serpent - Why Did God Instruct Israel to Practise Idolatry?

This is my reflection on the Mass readings of this coming Sunday - Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross – September 14, 2014.
Mass Readings: Nm 21:4-9; Phil 2:6-11; Jn 3:13-17

As a time-honoured sports fan, I watch many sport events; sometimes in person, but mostly on television. In my early years in North America, I was puzzled to see that in many games that I watched, a spectator or two in the crowds often would hold up a sign that said simply, “John 3:16”. Being unfamiliar with the Bible at the time, I thought it was a code word for promoting some kind of well-known merchandise. Eventually I realized that the signs were referring to this Sunday’s gospel reading, particularly this verse in John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

The message is undeniably condensed and to the point. In the setting of a sporting venue or a crowded stadium where you can’t say much because people either can’t hear or won’t listen; drawing people’s attention to John 3:16 is a clever way to evangelize. But if I have a choice, I’d rather read out and explain in detail the preceding passage: And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15).

We are physical beings that perceive and communicate using our senses. Like a loving mother trying to get her baby’s attention using baby talk, God stoops down to our human level to communicate with us in an incarnational way that involves all of our senses. Top among God’s human techniques, or “baby talk” if you will, is the use of imagery that helps us visualize and understand things or ideas that are intangible or hard to grasp. Hidden in the fore-mentioned Johannine passage are powerful images that can shake anyone to the core of his being when properly understood.

In the first reading, God, who is steadfast in opposing idolatry throughout the Old Testament, inexplicably asked Moses to make an idol for his people – a bronze serpent. If this is not strange enough, His next instruction to Moses simply bordered on insanity: Get the Israelites to look at the bronze serpent, mounted high on a pole, as though it were an idol to be worshipped! God being God, He had it His way. Moses did exactly what he was told. But then again, God being God, He was able to heal everyone who got bitten by the serpents! Still, even though God can do anything He wants, a sensible reader will surely want to know: Why did God go against His own commandment and instruct Moses and his people to practise idolatry?

The way the Bible works, the real meaning of an Old Testament passage that seems so difficult to understand is usually revealed in the New Testament. As St. Augustine says so succinctly, “The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament revealed in the New.” In the gospel reading, Jesus perfects the techniques of biblical exegesis and explains that the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up in the desert is actually an image or a personification, if you will, pointing towards him personally. Like the bronze serpent that looked poisonous and yet was the cure for those suffering from poisonous wounds, Jesus, who looked like a convicted criminal on the Cross is in fact the cure for those suffering from sins; like the bronze serpent that was lifted up high on a pole, Jesus must be lifted up high on the Cross; like the serpent-bitten people who looked at the mounted serpent and got healed, the sin-wounded people who turn their gaze to the crucified Christ will be saved.

The imagery at work in the Mass readings of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is not only powerful, it is also a good demonstration of why images cannot be seen as identical to “idols” – an error often made by many separated brethren of the reformed churches.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sad to See Summer Go....


Labor Day long weekend, which means summer is officially over!

The leaves on a few trees are beginning to change colors. Up north in Algonquin Park, the fall colors are probably starting to show.

It's sad to see summer go...

At the same time, I love the fiery colors of fall and its crisp and chilly days. If fall is like your sentimental high school friend who shows up quietly at your doorsteps without your knowing it, winter is like a stern guardian at her heels, admonishing her and pressing her to leave.

But I don't mind winter. In fact I think its austerity suggests depth and character, which is why I made it the header of my blog.

May I entice you by re-introducing a previous post of mine about this special season? The Rhythm of Life.

Support FLL - A Wonderful Platform for Media Evangelization!

Like last year, I will participate in this year's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in order to support the FLL ministry. This is a very worthwhile and meaningful endeavor because FLL is truly a special platform for evangelization, useful not only for spreading the Good News of Christ to ethnic Chinese across Canada and globally, but also for enabling laity and volunteers like you and me to use their gifts and resources to help build the kingdom of God, one brick at a time!

With your generous support last year, my participation in this Marathon was able to make a meaningful contribution to FLL's overall fundraising effort, which had a very successful and record-breaking year. I hope you would consider supporting me again and make FLL's fundraising effort even more successful this year!

The Marathon will take place on Sunday, October 19, 2014. To support me and donate, just go to my Scotiabank Marathon personal page.

Thank you for your kind donation!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Papacy and I - Two Decades Later

(Pope Francis mingling with workers in Vaticanteen)

Here is a great article on the papacy: If No One Is Pope, Everyone is Pope – A Homily for the 21st Sunday of the Year.

The article was actually Mgsr. Charles Pope’s homily on the Mass readings of the 21st Sunday of the year. Its Gospel reading, as we Catholics know, is the famous and often controversial “Peter rocks!” passage of Matthew 16:13-20. Mgsr. Pope made a few very convincing arguments for papacy which I haven't come across before. The title itself - If No One Is Pope, Everyone is Pope - is a good example.

The story about my personal conversion had been told and re-told I-don’t-know-how-many times in my church programs, RCIA, family bible sharing groups, and various faith-related activities. Before my conversion, which took place gradually over a period of almost 10 years that began in the early nineties, I was a dissenter searching for the truth. In spite of my dissension, I left the door slightly ajar to allow the Church to convince me if she had the truth. Today, thank God, I believe I have my feet firmly planted in truth in as far as the papacy is concerned. If there's any credit I could take, it's not that I was smart enough to understand the Church doctrines and her scriptural arguments, but that at least I had the humility to say, "I need to know; convince me!"

Unfortunately in my encounters with many Christians and thinkers of the reformed churches, either in person or through reading their writings and internet publications, many of them were either unable or unwilling to really keep their eyes fixed on the truth and then embrace it unreservedly once discovered. Most of them were too gung ho about "winning", and couldn’t care less what the truth really was. The following statement in Mgsr. Pope’s article is right on about this self-defeating attitude:

But frankly most of the objections amount to a kind of wishful thinking by some, who want this text to mean something other than what it plainly means.

Of course, the objections referred to by Mgsr. Pope in the above statement are those that refuse to see Matthew 16:13-20 as Jesus' installation of the Petrine office of papacy.

If you need a good example that clearly demonstrates what Mgsr. said, just read those hilarious comments made by PBJ in response to his article. One insurmountable hurdle that stands in our way as we try to communicate with the separated brethren of the reformed churches is that many people can’t think clearly and coherently, just like PBJ.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our Zeal for God Is Consuming Us!

This is my reflection on the Mass readings of the 22nd Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A – August 31, 2014
Mass Readings: Jer 20:7-9; Rom 12:1-2; Mt 16:21-27

“My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God” (Psalm 63:2). Gentle in tone and unadorned in expression, the human yearning for God, as reflected in the antiphon of this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm, belies the zeal and vigour simmering deep in the psalmist’s heart. In fact, his longing for God is so overpowering that it makes him feel “like a land parched, lifeless, and without water” (Psalm 63:2b).

As a volunteer of the FLL ministry, I am constantly amazed by the same zeal and vigour that many fellow volunteers and staff members display in conducting their day-to-day FLL activities: people who travel and incur expenses due to ministry work without seeking reimbursements; people who stay late and get up in the wee hours in order to meet project or event deadlines; volunteers who have taken on so much work that their “voluntary positions” at FLL have effectively turned into full-time jobs with no pay; staff members who willingly accept a smaller salary in order to engage in more meaningful pursuits at FLL; leaders so dedicated to achieving the FLL vision and mission that their personal savings, life styles, daily needs, future plans, etc. have become mere after thoughts. Stories such as these are not uncommon in the FLL ministry.

In this Sunday’s readings, we find out the reason for these people’s dedication. True followers of Christ are driven not by earthly fame and fortunes, but by the love of Christ. “For the love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14)! They share prophet Jeremiah’s passion: They cannot suppress God’s compelling love, nor can they resist the opportunity to proclaim His name. Any attempt to do so will trigger some kind of uneasiness that “becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones” (Jer. 20:9), causing frustrations that are hard to endure. In other words, if these FLL volunteers and staff members work like men/women possessed, it is because what possesses them – what consumes their hearts and souls - is the love of God.

However, their dedication is not without its moments of doubts and wavering. Jesus, who was determined to accept his final suffering at the hands of “the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes” in Jerusalem (Mt. 16:21), heard voices, coming from none other than the future Church leader he had just appointed. “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you,” said Peter (Mt. 16:22). The committed FLL volunteers and staff hear voices too. But when they do, one voice that always stands out is Jesus’ exhortation following his rebuke of Peter: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 16:24-25).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams: "What Will Your Verse Be?"

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute.
We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.
And the human race is filled with passion.
And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.
But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

To quote from Whitman,
"O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring;
of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish;
what good amid these, O me, O life?"
Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity;
that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?

(Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society, 1989)

My thoughts on the morning after Mr. Williams' death:

 The legends are like a tornado in a good way: its real impact cannot be measured until it’s gone.

 The legends are like a good book: you don’t want it to end; and when it does, both the author and the reader realize that what they have experienced together will never repeat itself.

 Unlike a good book, which somehow can be accessed and read whenever you want, your opportunity to have a relationship of some kind with a living legend cannot be repeated if you missed it.

 I am not into movies or TV. I must admit Robin Williams is one of the legends I missed with great regret. (Regret in the sense that I could have paid more attention to him and made him more a part of my life.) Elvis also comes to mind. If not for the grace of God, St. John Paul II would have been another one.

 In What Dreams May Come (1998), Mr. Williams said, “A human life is just a heartbeat in heaven”, which to me is another way of saying, “For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday or as a watch of the night” (Psalm 90:4).

 Coming home from morning exercise and coffee, I heard on the radio the quote cited in the beginning of this post. I was able to find it on the internet. Mr. Williams deserves my deep admiration for just this quote alone! That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be? - What an eloquent and powerful way to implore the meaning of life!

 One final thought: In so many ways, Mr. Williams was an exceedingly kind and extraordinary human person. He had contributed his verse and played not a small role in this human drama still unfolding before our very eyes. And yet, like so many legends before him, he had his share of mishaps and failures: drugs, alcoholism, personal secrets lurking in the darkness of his private life which was ended in a tragic manner all too soon. We know more or less how Hollywood sees him, and by and large how America and the world see him. But how is God going to judge him? The more I think about it, the more the Catholic doctrine of purgatory makes sense to me.

 I shall conclude this reflection with a prayer for Mr. Williams using Psalm 86:15, a prayer that always warms my heart and gives me hope when I think of all the good people, including my beloved mother, who have come and gone before me, leaving their footprints in my heart - footprints that look so beautiful and yet on close examination are full of defects.

"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity." (Psalm 86:15)
May God in his infinite mercy receive Mr. Williams into His bosom of eternal bliss,
not because of Mr. Williams’ contribution to humanity,
as dazzling an artist and comedian as he was on this great stage of human drama,
but on the merit of the salvific grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Amen!



Saturday, August 9, 2014

「跨越希望的門檻」是甚麼意思?

然而,在歷史跨越希望的門檻,進入救恩的新時代的這一刻,天主要親自前來「告訴心怯的人說:鼓起勇氣來,不要畏懼!」(依35:4;cf. 則24:11) 。身為天主聖子的耶穌,遂特別給門徒保證說:「放心吧!是我。不必害怕!」(瑪14:27) 。

(引自甲年常年期十九主日(2014年8月10日)彌撒讀經的反思,英語原文在八月四日發表於elodocuments中文翻譯見八月八日《恩泉啟迪》。)

上述反思中,「跨越希望的門檻」一詞是甚麼意思?

相信熟識前教宗聖若望保祿二世的人,都知道《跨越希望的門檻》,是一本有關這位聖人的書的名稱,其內容用訪問形式帶出。

上述反思借用這書名,因為耶穌是天主,即聖三的第二位格,他的出現是整個人類歷史的高峯;是人神隔絕的境況終於被打破的時刻;是人從罪惡和敗壞,步入聖善和完美的分界線。耶穌的出現,代表著聖言成了血肉,進入了人類歷史和時空 (cf. 若1:14) ;是前無古人,後無來者的奧蹟 。

多少年來,從亞當開始至聖子降生,受造物一直被屈伏在敗壞狀態之下,一同歎息,同受產痛;但仍懷有希望,期望脫離敗壞的控制 (cf. 羅8:20-23) 。多少年來,人類活在罪惡的奴役中,就像在埃及為奴四佰年的以色列人般,渴望著自由的曙光。現在期望終於實現了!依撒意亞先知和其它先知所言,天主要親自前來拯救人類的預告,終於成了事實! 所以上述反思要用「歷史跨越希望的門檻,進入救恩的新時代」去形容這重要的時刻。

因著基督,本來是瀕臨絕境的人類,竟能充滿希望(cf. 創3:15);也因著基督,人從活在希望中,變成活在真實中。這真實就是脫離罪惡的奴役,成為天主子女「獲得那為你們已存留在天上的不壞、無瑕、不朽的產業」(伯後1:4) 的事實。

上述討論還帶來另一問題,就是第四世紀的異端亞略主義(Arianism) 否定耶穌是天主的問題;到今天這異端的遺害,仍存留部份自稱是基督徒的團體中。如果耶穌不是天主,上述依撒意亞先知的預言,即天主要親自前來拯救人類的預言,便落了空;所謂「歷史跨越希望的門檻,進入救恩的新時代」的歡欣,也成了自欺欺人的夢想。這樣的基督信仰,縱使仍存歡樂成份,這歡樂是重重打了折扣的,是不完滿的,與耶穌的允許「為使我的喜樂存在你們內,使你們的喜樂圓滿無缺」(若15:11) ,是完全兩回事。

Monday, August 4, 2014

O You Of Little Faith, Why Did You Doubt? (Mt. 14:31)

This is my reflection on the Mass readings of Sunday, August 10, 2014
(Year A Ordinary Time 19th Sunday)
Mass Readings: 1 Kgs 19:9, 11-13; Rom 9:1-5; Mt. 14:22-33

One can’t help but notice the similarities of the experiences of Elijah and Jesus’ disciples as described in the first and the Gospel readings. In both cases, men experienced frightening scenes – Elijah experienced “a strong and heavy wind”, “crushing rocks”, “earthquake”, “fire”; the disciples’ boat was “being tossed about by the waves for the wind was against it”; “they were terrified” and “cried out in fear” – before God appeared and calmness set in.

Like Elijah, we look for God in terrifying and difficult moments of our lives. More often than not, it appears He is not there just when we need Him most, leaving us to flounder in fear and anxiety!

Jesus’ disciples fared no better in their moments of difficulty: “they were terrified…they cried out in fear” (Mt. 14:26). However, with history crossing over the threshold of hope and entering into a new era of salvation in which God would come personally to “say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!” (Isaiah 35:4; cf. Eze 24:11), the disciples were given a special assurance from Jesus, the Son of God: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt. 14:27). “It is I” – literally, “I am” – Jesus revealed himself by alluding to God’s self-revelation at the burning bush (Ex 3:14)! Yes, God has come indeed! “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” John affirmed (John 1:14).

But why do we often fail to find God in our moments of distress? Men’s collective failure is epitomized in the person of Peter and his aborted attempt to walk on the water. Jesus told Peter, and through him to all of us, why his failure was all but certain: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14:31).

To think about it: Isn’t this the same problem that brought about the demise of our first parents when they doubted God who said of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, “You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die”? (Genesis 3:3) So many years after Adam and Eve, we continue to make the same mistake, while Jesus’ reproachful question to Peter - “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” – continues to resonate in our hearts.

We must conclude from this reflection that when God, out of great wrath, called Israel a “stiff-necked” people (cf. Ex. 32:9), His anger was directed not only at Israel but also at us. Aren’t we just as “stiff-necked” as Israel, if not more? Our only way out, which was also the only way out for Peter in the midst of a raging sea, is to reach out in faith to Jesus, who will catch us the way he stretched out his hand to catch the sinking Peter.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

順流逆流

我很少唱karaoke 。從15歲開始,我已習慣了用結他自彈自唱。

我沒有手提電話。我喜歡用地線電話,可以傳神和投入地交談。當我獨自在戶外活動時,也可以好好享用個人的寧靜和空間,不用受外界騷擾。

從沒想過要用iPad或iPhone等手機。我喜歡常常抬起頭做人,與四週的人保持視覺上的接觸(縱使是單方面的) ,不讓自己時時刻刻活在個人世界中,也不讓自己的行動和思念,受控於手心一塊電子板。

我對流行的 social media和WhatsApp總提不起興趣。曾多次因福傳需要而嘗試用Facebook和Twitter,但總有嘔心的感覺。我深信語言和溝通,除了實用的需要,還要顧及文學和藝術價值。人不是雀鳥,只會吱吱喳喳;也不是街頭犬隻,只管亂叫亂吠。我認為多花一點腦筋和心思,有技巧地,有層次地,有深度地表達自己,是人溝通應有的基本元素。

到今天,我仍然抗拒將月曆的每一天填得滿滿,讓自己忙得不可開交。很多人喜歡這樣做,以顯示自己生活得充實和有意義 (請參閱《忙,站在人身旁,顯得很了不起! 》)。更多人忙是因為自己不懂得好好安排和利用時間,而將自己弄得終日團團轉 (多年在教會環境中工作的經驗告訴我:八成以上的會議是不需要的!) 。所以,我「無情地」推卻不少活動和應酬,緊守宗旨,將有限的時間、資源和心思,重點地放在自己專注的事情上,深信重要的是質不是量。

繁忙的生活節奏容易使人心靈窒息,要做好事情,我需要平和閒靜的心。平和能生大智,使人明悟真理;閒靜能敏銳心靈,讓人洞察天主聖意。常說「願袮的旨意奉行在人間」,若不能洞察天主旨意,談何奉行?常說要恆常祈禱,與造物主建立密切的關係,若時常心煩意亂,來去匆匆,祈禱關係何從建立?

順流逆流是每一個人必須做的選擇,抗潮而行永遠是不容易的。如果你願意在生活上爭取主動,如果你像我一樣覺得需要一點閒靜和思考的空間,不妨嘗試放下你的手提電話、iPad、iPhone等手機;也不要花時間將晚飯餸菜照片放上Facebook或在 WhatsApp七咀八舌;嘗試在溝通上多化心思去尋求突破,更清晰和更有深度地表達自己。漸漸地你會發覺,自己的言行思想被提升到另一層面,整個人脫胎換骨,如立高山,只覺心曠神怡,視野清晰,天地萬象,一目了然!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cry, My Beloved Birth Place!



Remember the book "Cry, the Beloved Country"? I read it as a Form 3 (Grade 9) student in Hong Kong and was mightily moved by the social struggles experienced by the people of the pre-apartheid South Africa. At this moment, I can cry for Hong Kong - my beloved birth place - in view of the political turbulence the people of Hong Kong are experiencing in trying to twist arms with communist China to gain more freedom and democracy. As I reflect more on this issue from a broader perspective, I have this urge in me to cry for all the Chinese people and for 5,000 years of Chinese culture.

In a way, what is happening to Hong Kong today is the tragic outcome of a decision made by the politicians in 1842 when China conceded this mountainous and seemingly barren wasteland to Britain as a colony in the Treaty of Nanjing. Is the current government of Hong Kong to blame for failing to give its people real democracy? I say it's all the politicians in power over the years, not only from the current government of Hong Kong but also from Communist China, the Britain of the 20th century, Chiang Kai-Shek's government, the Qing Dynasty, and the Britain of the 19th century. In a word, history, which is full of human frailty, vice, and short-sightedness, is to blame.

To many people, religious belief is mere idealism. It's a human way to escape from the cruelty and imperfection of the "real world". If the "real world" – Hong Kong, other places enduring even more severe suffering like Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, Egypt, Libya, Syria, you name it - is the only world that mankind must live with, then our most logical and selfless wish should be for this "real world" to self-destruct as soon as possible so that mankind as a whole can stop suffering!

But the good news of the Gospel is that as bad as this world is and as hopeless as it may seem, the suffering of this world that we live in - the suffering of the people of Hong Kong - is not meaningless. As bad as it is, human suffering is not something that we can only accept passively and for which no rational explanation can be given. No, there are answers to all human puzzles and hardships; there are hopes in spite of this collective and longstanding enslavement of the human race. The answers and hopes have been revealed by God himself in the Gospel, which is not mere idealism. It is real human history manifested in the words and works of a man named Jesus; it is love crystallized in the body and blood that he gave up for us. There is hope for liberation in this whole history of human turmoil. In fact, in Christ we are already liberated!

This is why the Christians find the Gospel so inspiring and fascinating. This is why the true Christians devote their whole lives to living out the Gospel. This is also why according to Jesus the kingdom of God, once discovered, is so important to our being that it commands all of our wills, passions, and possessions (cf. Mt. 13:44-46)!

My topic inevitably turns to faith no matter what I write. But I do this not because I want to bore you - my reader - to death, but because I need you to understand why the Gospel means so much to me and why I do what I do these days - spending the rest of my life to proclaim the Gospel. At this point of my life, what St. Paul expresses so admirably in Phil 1:21 is a constant resonance in my heart: "For my life is Christ, and death is gain."

Let's pray for the people of Hong Kong and for all the Chinese people in the world who have suffered way too long. Cry, my beloved birth place! Cry, my beloved people!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Lord, You Are Good and Forgiving!" (Psalm 86:5) - Our Real Reason For Hope

This is my reflection on the Mass readings of Sunday, July 20, 2014
Year A Ordinary Time 16th Sunday
Mass Readings: Wis 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43

“Lord, you are good and forgiving!” Captured in the antiphon of the Responsorial Psalm is the heart of the message of this Sunday’s Mass readings – an amazing message that punctuates every action taken by God in the history of salvation, a wonderful message that gives us the real reason to be hopeful and joyful.

God “gave [His] sons good ground for hope that [He] would permit repentance for their sins” (Wis 12:19), intoned the inspired writer in the first reading.

“Let them grow together until harvest” (Mt. 13:30), replied the kind and patient householder in Jesus’ parable in response to his servant’s request to pull up the weeds that grew through the wheat, for he didn’t want the uprooting of the weeds to endanger the wheat.

"The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity!” (Ex. 34:6) God revealed His loving, patient, and merciful nature to Israel as soon as He entered into a covenant with them.

This brings to mind a story that has touched so many hearts.

Bob and Debbie were devout Catholics and loving parents who did everything possible to give their two children, Jack and Stephanie, a good Catholic upbringing. While Stephanie excelled in both her faith and career, Jack started to drift away from church soon after entering university. Soon after university, which he barely managed to complete, he was able to find a job. But his career went from blunder to blunder, changing jobs 4 times in a matter of 2 years. Eventually he became unemployed. He started drinking. One night he came home very drunk, messing up the bath room and waking up everyone in the house.

Stephanie, who was working on a company project that must be submitted the next morning, was very angry with her brother. Out of frustration, she demanded that her dad do something to “punish” him and “fix him up once and for all!” Bob, who had known for years that his son was suffering from a certain mental disorder that had been bothering him since he entered university, gave Stephanie a little hug and said, “Stephanie, you know how much mom and dad love you and how pleased we are that you continue to grow in faith. As for your brother Jack, the one who judges is the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 4:4) and we know the Lord is kind, patient, and merciful. Let’s just follow Jesus, who loves us not because we are good and righteous but because we are sinners. If Jesus forgives us even if we continue to sin against him, let’s also forgive your brother and love him even more in his times of hardship.”

Let’s conclude this Sunday reflection with a prayer:

Have mercy on us, O God!
Look not on our sins and destroy us not for the sake of Your Son’s sorrowful passion!
“If you, Lord, mark our sins, who can stand?” (Psalm 130:3)
Help us forgive those who trespass against us,
The way you forgive us who trespass against you!
Amen!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Should Doctors Be Forced to Accept the Patients' Morality in Performing All Treatments, Including the Non-Emergency Ones?

Many readers who share my Christian beliefs will agree with me that living in the world of liturgies, prayers, and Scriptures is peaceful and full of joy. But, as we have seen so many times and in so many places where people are persecuted and killed for no reason other than their religious convictions, our freedom to lead a religious and moral life that's grounded in Christian beliefs and morality should not be taken for granted. It needs to be defended. Sometimes, as so many martyrs and saints have done in the history of the Church, it may even require the shedding of blood and the sacrifice of lives.

"OK. I'll fight a good fight! I'll join the Church martyrs; I'm ready to die for Christ!" you say. Not so soon! And it's not so simple. Often times, it's the little battles that add up and eventually get us killed without us knowing it - much like a frog dying in the "warmth" of slow boiling water! Here's one of those battles we cannot afford to ignore.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) is asking for public input as part of its regular review of policy guidelines. At issue in this current review is the right of doctors to refuse to provide certain treatments based on religious or moral grounds. The current CPSO policy allows doctors to refrain from performing non-emergency procedures should the procedures violate their individual conscience.

“Non-emergency procedures” refer to issues such as infant male circumcision, prescribed birth control, certain types of medications, medicinal marijuana, or an abortion procedure. (In the future, this list may very well include euthanasia or assisted suicide.) In other words, we are not talking about providing health-care services where a patient’s life is at risk.

If you believe, as I do, that CPSO should NOT be imposing morality on all physicians, to the point where doctors need to violate their own conscience in order to serve their patients’ need to do non-emergency procedures (as listed above), you should go to CPSO’s Quick Poll to vote YES on their question: “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?”

While you are there, you may also want to submit a comment against CPSO’s attempt to impose their morality on all physicians. You can do so by posting your comment to the CPSO forum, or by emailing CPSO. Links are available on the CPSO Quick Poll to allow you to do both. Here’s the link to the CPSO Quick Poll (deadline for feedback is August 5, 2014):

CPSO Quick Poll

Should you be interested in researching more about this issue and why the answer to the CPSO Quick Poll question should be YES, I would recommend the following three articles:

1. Article by John Carpay
2. Article by David Bulgar
3. Article by Mike Schouten

(Acknowledgement: The content of this post is adopted partly from the Mike Schouten article with modification.)

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Bible Study Program - A Summer Farewell

But I have written to you rather boldly in some respects to remind you, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the holy Spirit. (Romans 15:16)


Last Friday evening marked the end of another fruitful year of the CMCC Bible Study Program (BSP). How appropriate it was that we concluded our study of the Letter of Romans with St. Paul’s exhortation for those proclaiming the Good News of the Lord to see their ministry of evangelization as a ”priestly service of the gospel of God” that turns the unbelievers into sacrifices sanctified by the Holy Spirit and acceptable to God (cf. Rom 15:16).

Evangelization is priestly because it is a sacrificial act in which the evangelizer is the celebrant and the unbelievers the sacrifice. Having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, they become spiritual offerings that are pleasing and acceptable to God!

Evangelization is liturgical because through its visible catechetical rites and activities, the unbelievers receive the invisible grace of wisdom and faith, and are granted the priceless privilege of becoming sons and daughters of God!

My fellow workers in the harvest fields of the Lord, let us work hard in performing "the priestly service of the gospel of God". But whether we choose to join or just sit on the sideline, the liturgy of evangelization has been unfolding for 2000 years, turning gradually all of mankind into spiritual offerings pleasing and acceptable to God!

Partly because of the excitement of sharing the above Pauline teaching, and partly because of physical exhaustion caused by the singing and festivity of the farewell celebration, I was unable to fall asleep Friday night until almost 4:30 a.m.! Three hours later, I woke up violently like a cardiac arrest patient jolted back into consciousness by his surgeon. Shocked and disoriented, I was devastated to discover that my ride to a weekend retreat was already waiting for me on my driveway!

In spite of the mishap, for which I have only myself to blame, my heart is still bursting with delight and elation from last Friday; grateful for all the work that the BSP volunteers did to give us such a beautiful summer farewell; thankful to God for giving the BSP community the wonderful blessing of growing spiritually in the word of God for 12 consecutive years and counting. On behalf of the BSP Planning Committee, I’d like to express my heart-felt gratitude to all the BSP volunteers whose contribution and self-emptying have made the BSP do-able, sustainable, and fruitful.

Have a safe and blessed summer, all BSP volunteers and participants! Come September, we will gather again to pray and study the Psalms, through which the universal voice of mankind is raised in unison to express our longing to see God face to face!

NOTE: If you are interested in joining next year's BSP on the Psalms (our first meeting will be Friday, Sept 26, 2014), we are beginning to accept on-line registrations. Click this link to submit your registration: BSP On-Line Registration.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Thinking About The Roman Catholic Church on This Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul

The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
Readings: Acts 12:1-11; 2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18; Mt. 16:13-19

St. Irenaeus, a 2nd century Church Father, had this to say about the church of Rome: “the very great, the very ancient and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.” He added: “with this church, by reason of its more excellent origin every church must agree…the tradition which comes from the apostles has been preserved” (Against the Heresies 3.3.2.)

On this coming Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul, Irenaeus’ eloquent and much-quoted statement and similar statements made by other early Church Fathers that testified to the pre-eminence or even primacy of the church of Rome among other Christian and apostolic church communities find their resonance in the Gospel reading where Peter, the first leader of the Church after Christ, was made the “rock” upon which the Church of Christ would be built. “Rock” (or other words carrying the same conceptual meaning) is a very important scriptural word used in many places in the Old Testament to signify the Messiah. For example: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22). Christ, the Messiah, is the rock; in renaming Simon as “Peter” – “rock” – he made Peter his representative; he appointed Peter as the foundational leader of his Church.

In fact, the resonance turned into thundering when Jesus - the Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev 17:14) whose Kingdom of Heaven the kingdom of David prefigured and anticipated - gave Peter the “keys” that carried the complete and undeterred authority of binding and loosing. In a similar manner, the keys of the Davidic dynasty were given to Eliakim to allow him to govern Israel with absolute authority (Isaiah 22:20-22).

Today after 2000 years of Church history, sitting on the Chair of St. Peter is his 266th successor, Pope Francis. On this coming Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul, we Roman Catholics have every reason to rejoice and thank God in unison with the psalmist who sings in jubilation:

How numerous, O Lord, my God, you have made your wondrous deeds!
And in your plans for us there is none to equal you.
Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount
(Ps. 40:6)

Top among God’s wondrous deeds that stand to be counted by us Roman Catholics is the special grace of being members of the Roman Catholic Church - “the very ancient and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Trinity Sunday Reflection (聖三主日的反思)

Trinity Sunday Readings:
Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
John 3:16-18

In the first reading of the Trinity Sunday, the God revealed to Moses was “merciful and gracious…slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity” (Ex. 34:6); and Moses himself was depicted as a mediator for Israel, pleading for God to pardon the wickedness and sins of his “stiff-necked people” (cf. Ex. 34:9).

Like the first light of dawn, which gives us but a glimpse of the radiance of the midday sun; the images of a merciful God and a mediating Moses in the Old Testament are in fact the precursors of more significant figures waiting to be fully revealed in the New Testament.

In the gospel reading, God’s mercy finds its full manifestation in an astounding act of love: “he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). Similarly, Moses’ mediation is given a definitive meaning in the mediation of Christ, who is the “one Mediator between God and men” (1 Tim 2:5), “the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through [him]” (John 14:6).

The Trinity Sunday brings to mind, in particular, our inability to articulate this profound mystery. Acutely aware, as we are, of the need to “encourage one another, agree with one another, [and] live in peace” so that “the God of love and peace will be with [us]” (2 Cor 13:11); humbled as mere mortals by this profound mystery; we invoke the presence of the Trinity in our community of faith using the Trinitarian greeting in the closing words of the second reading: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13)!

Following close on the heels of Pentecost, the Trinity Sunday is a special time for us to reflect. Pentecost has a special meaning for the FLL ministry: for our staff, for our volunteers, and for all of you, our supporters. It is a time before which we prepare and surrender ourselves awaiting God's promise; during which we are transformed, renewed, and empowered; after which we move out of our own egoistic self and comfort zone, committing ourselves as disciples and teaming up with others in the community to fearlessly proclaim His love to the world.

How did you celebrate Pentecost this year? Now that we have experienced the outpouring of the Spirit, let's reflect and internalize the meaning of Pentecost in our hearts, and make this Pentecost a transformational experience in our journey of faith. In transforming ourselves, we also transform the whole Chinese community of faith. As we embark on another ten years of humble service of evangelizing to the Chinese community, every one of us in the FLL ministry can and must continue to contribute to this beautiful communal transformation. We owe this to our Mother Church; most of all, we owe it to those who have been deprived of the joy and power of the Gospel message due to various reasons.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in the Upper Room is a powerful communal experience. Now we feel empowered as a community to embark on another 10 years of evangelization. We are determined to follow the will of the Father, enthused to say YES to the Son, and inspired to embrace the Holy Spirit who, like the wind, “blows where it wills” (John 3:8).

(Acknowledgement: This Sunday reflection was co-authorized by Edmond Lo and Paul Yeung.)


聖三主日讀經:

出谷紀 34:4-6, 8-9
格林多人後書 Corinthians 13:11-13
約望福音 3:16-18


在天主聖三主日的第一篇讀經,顯現給梅瑟的天主,是「慈悲寬仁... 緩於發怒,富於慈愛忠誠」(出34:6) 的; 而梅瑟則被描繪為以色列的中保,懇求天主寬免祂「執拗的百姓」(出34:9) 的過犯和罪惡。

就如黎明的第一道曙光讓人瞥見烈日的光芒,從舊約所見的形像,即慈悲寬仁的天主和為以色列轉求的梅瑟,就是新約將要給人顯示的,一些更重要的人物的先聲。

在今天的福音中,天主的慈悲在一個令人驚訝的,愛的行動中充分地表現出來:「祂甚至賜下了自己的獨生子,使凡信祂的人不至喪亡,反而獲得永生」(若3:16) 。同樣,梅瑟的轉求,被身為「在天主與人之間只有一個的中保」(弟前2:5), 並且是「道路、真理、生命,除非經過我,誰也不能到父那裡去」的基督(若14:6) ,肯定了它的真正意義。

天主聖三主日讓我們更強烈地感受到這不可說明的奧秘,在它面前我們變得啞口無言。我們清楚知道,「要服從勸勉,要同心合意,『和』要彼此和睦」,這樣,「仁愛與平安的天主必與『我們 』同在」(格後13:11); 這奧秘讓人感到渺少和謙遜,驚嘆生命的短暫。藉著第二篇讀經最後的聖三祝福,讓我們祈求天主聖三的臨在,光照我們的信仰團體:「願主耶穌基督的恩寵,和天主的愛情,以及聖神的相通,常與你們眾人相偕。」(格後13:13)

在聖神降臨節後接踵而來的聖三主日是一個特別的日子,讓我們好好地反省一下。聖神降臨對<生命恩泉>的職員、義工、以及所有支持者,都具有特殊意義。在這時刻前, 我們應作好準備,獻出自已, 來等待天主的應許;在這時刻中,我們要蛻變、更新、和領受新的動能;在這時刻後, 我們要忘我地, 不貪求安逸地, 用跟隨天主的決心, 聯同主內的兄弟姊妹,勇敢地向世界宣揚主的愛。

你今年是怎麼渡過聖神降臨節呢?現在,我們旣領受了聖神所傾注的恩寵,就讓我們好好反思一下聖神降臨節的意義,並將一切默存心中,使這個聖神降臨節成為我們信仰旅程中的一個轉捩點。當我們改造自己的時候,我們也改造了整個天主教華人團體。在未來的十年裡, 讓我們懷著謙卑的心, 在華人團體內繼續做福傳服務。我們<生命恩泉>裡每一個成員都可以而且必須繼續為改變天主教華人團體而作出貢獻。這樣做, 是我們為慈母聖教會應盡的義務; 為那些因為種種原因而被剝奪了接受福音的喜樂和力量的人,這義務更急不容缓。

聖神降臨是門徒們作為一個信仰團體所經歷的,一個強而有力的體驗。同樣地,作為一個信仰團體,我們因著聖神的力量,已充滿了新的能量,去面對未來十年的福傳工作。我們堅決遵從天父的聖意,對聖子熱誠地作出正面回應,並衷心擁抱著像風一樣「隨意向那裡吹」 的 聖神(若望福音3:8)。

(這主日讀經分享由Edmond Lo 和 Paul Yeung 共筆。)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sunday Reflection - 7th Sunday of Easter (Year A) 默想甲年復活期第七主日的彌撒讀經

7th Sunday of Easter (Year A) Readings: Acts 1:12-14, 1 Pt 4:13-16, Jn 17:1-11

After the ascension of the Son and on the threshold of the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit, we read in the gospel of the 7th Sunday of Easter the concluding words of Jesus’ priestly prayer, said in a tone of immediacy with regard to his coming death and glorification.

Equally striking are the peace and satisfaction that the words of Jesus conveyed in this intense Father-and-Son dialogue. After all, “the work that you gave me to do” has now been accomplished; “the words you gave me I have given them” (John 17: 4, 8); the Messianic Kingdom is all but firmly established; a new era of the Spirit is about to commence; the baton for bringing the economy of salvation to full fruition is to be passed on from the Son to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ promise to usher in a new era of the Church by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled at the Pentecost. Before this historic and pivotal moment when the Church was made manifest to the world (CCC 1076), it is only fitting that the apostles gathered in the upper room “to devote themselves with one accord to prayer” (Acts 1:14) together with the Blessed Mother. “Spirit”, “apostles”, “Mary”, “prayer” – What better ways to reveal the Church? How can any one of these constitutive elements be missing when the Church being revealed is the Church of Christ?


甲年復活期第七主日的彌撒讀經: 宗1:12-14, 伯前4:13-16, 若17:1-11

在耶穌升天後和五旬節聖神即將降臨之際,我們從復活期第七主日的福音,看到耶穌大司祭祈禱的結語,提及祂即將經歷的死亡和光榮。

特別的是:在這熱切的聖父聖子的對話中,耶穌流露著無限的平安和滿足。「你所委託我所作的工作」已完成了;「你所授給我的話,我都傳給了他們」(若17:4,8) ;默西亞王國已確立;新的聖神的時期即將展開;將救恩工程推廣和帶來完滿果實的工作,將要像接力棒一般,從聖子的手轉交聖神。

耶穌允許了,要讓聖神傾注於教會,讓她進入一個嶄新的時期;這應允在五旬節實現了。在給世界顯示教會這歷史和關鍵性的時刻之前(天主教教理簡編1076),宗徒們與聖母聚集在樓房上,「同心合意地專務祈禱」(宗1:14) ,這是多麼恰當的事。試問有什麼比「聖神」、「宗徒」、「瑪利亞」、「祈禱 」更能表現教會?當要顯示的教會是基督的教會時,這些基本要素豈不更缺一不可?

Monday, May 12, 2014

What Does "The Father's House" in John 14:2 Refer To?

In the gospel reading of the 5th Sunday of Easter (see bottom of post), Jesus told his apostles that he would leave them to prepare a place for them in his “Father’s house” (Jn 14:2). In the Bible, “God’s house” is a key term that refers to the Church, as signified by the Tabernacle (Ex 26) and the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kgs 6-8). Similar use of this term is often found in the Mosaic Law: “The choicest first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the LORD, your God,” (Ex. 23:19).

In the first reading, we see how the Father’s house – the Church of Christ – continued to get prepared: the ordination of 7 deacons, which marked the origin of the diaconal office – the ministry of charity – and became part of the fundamental structure of the Church (cf. Deus Caritas Est, n.21).

“House” as a key biblical word also refers to a dynasty or kingdom. God revealed to King David that his “house”, i.e. the Davidic kingdom or dynasty, shall endure forever (2 Sam 7:16). David’s kingdom foreshadows Jesus’ Heavenly Kingdom, whose founding and emergence he proclaimed in the beginning of his public ministry (Mk 1:15), and which he would continue to “prepare” upon departure from the apostles. Jesus is “Lord of lords and king of kings” (Rev 17:14); he is the perfect fulfillment of all the kings and their kingdoms on earth. His Messianic Kingdom is the only Kingdom that endures forever (cf. Dan 2:31-45).

Continuing the theme of God’s house, the 2nd reading reveals that the Church of Christ – His Kingdom - is built firmly on Christ himself, who is a “chosen, precious cornerstone” that was rejected by the builders, i.e. the Jews (1 Pet 2:6-7); its inhabitants, as God had already foretold through Moses (Ex. 19:6), are “a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation”.

Clearly we all want to live in the Father’s house. Now that we have pondered this Sunday’s readings, let’s be honest and ask ourselves: Do I belong to this “chosen race”? What’s my “priesthood” (see post of May 8, 2014)? How successful am I in exercising my priesthood? Do I live in holiness or in sinfulness? The answers to your questions may well decide whether the Father’s house is for you to live in!

(Readings of the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A: Acts 6:1-7, 1Pt 2:20-25, Lk 10:1-10)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

與未信主的好友談司祭職

敬愛的康徽兄:

康徽兄自少基於無限愛情和親情,為雙親、為家人、為下一代不斷奔波勞碌;在教學工作上,為了學生、學校和社會公益,又無私地將自己從學校和社會所得到的,全面獻出和交還,躹躬盡瘁,死而後已。這倫常德行,反映著中國文化和傳統光輝燦爛的一面,是華夏民族賴以生存的美德;是人性應有的、極崇高的情操。

但是這德行雖優越,若其運用只停留在世界和人的層面上,它的價值和效用,在相當程度上仍有所欠缺。為甚麼呢?容我進一步解釋。

在天主教信仰中,有所謂「司祭職」(priesthood)的教導。司祭們在舊約(即耶穌前) 傳統中的職份,主要是在耶路撒冷聖殿中,為以色列人向天主獻上牛、羊、白鴿、餅、酒等用人力和血汗換取得來的祭品,作為獻給天主的敬禮(worship) ;獻祭者也希望藉此獲得罪的赦免 。換言之,司祭職是獻出和犧牲的工作。

這梅瑟律法所規定的制度,在以色列從不間斷地行使了千多年,直至耶穌時代的猶太人,仍繼續沿用著。其實,在天主奧妙的救贖計劃中,舊約司祭職並沒有赦罪的功能;它只是一個形象標記,在指向、期待和預告著人類歷史最終的祭獻和司祭,即耶穌在十字架上的祭獻和耶穌本人的司祭職(他同時是這祭獻的祭品和司祭) ;耶穌的祭獻才是全人類的真正的贖罪祭。

洗禮給人的恩寵,包括讓領洗者領受基督的司祭職;讓他受洗後,從此將自己整個的生命 -- 包括做人處世的每一言、每一行,和生活起居的每一點、每一滴 -- 都跟隨著基督的祭獻而交出,成了祭品,成了讚美和光榮天主的詩篇。當人抑制妄自尊大的傾向,為了別人而謙卑自下時,他就在行使著因領洗的尊嚴而得來的司祭職;當人犧牲自己身體所需,將本來用來滿足自己的金錢、時間和物資,去幫助別人的時候,他便以司祭身份效法著最終大司祭耶穌基督,在十字架上為人類將自己的身體交出;當人像康徽兄般,為父母、子女、家庭、社稷而奔波勞碌時,他的血汗不但帶給親人和社會物質上的滿足,也成了天主悅納的、馨香的祭品,並能彰顯天主光榮於地上,有助基督救恩的廣傳。

在此我要特別指出,上述司祭職功效,並不是神學家用文藝手法和想像力作出來的東西,而是聖洗聖事無形地 (ontologically)、超性地 (divinely) 、和實質地發揮之功用。

本來人所作的犧牲無論多麼偉大,與貴為天主的耶穌在十字架上的犧牲,絕不能相提並論。 但是,藉著司祭職的轉化,本是平凡的,變得卓越;本是地上的,變成天上;本是有限的,變成無限;本是短暫的,成了永恆!聖保祿深明此理,也用這眼光看自己的生命,將一生歲月看成一瓶為天主而不斷傾流的祭酒;這祭酒傾流淨盡之日,便是他離世已近之時 (cf.弟茂得後書4:6) 。

康徽兄在孝愛上有如此高尚的情操,數十年如一日,恆久不斷地、身體力行地、毫不保留地為它人而交出自己;我竟大膽妄斷這樣的美德「在相當程度上仍有所欠缺」。箇中原因,希望藉著上文,總算作了粗畧的交代。若有冒犯或失言之處,萬望康徽兄包容和寬恕!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Did Enoch and Elijah Receive the Grace of Bodily Assumption?

A former Catechism Revisited Program participant asked me the following question:

In the Bible, both Enoch (Gen 5:21) and Elijah (2 Kgs 2:11) appear to have been taken up in bodily form by God. Were they also assumed into heaven like Mary?

My answer is as follows:

In the Bible, it appears that three OT figures have been assumed into heaven in bodily form:

ENOCH - Related scriptural references: Gen 5:21; Sir 44:16, 49:14; Heb 11:5
ELIJAH - Related scriptural references: 2 Kgs 2:11; 1 Mac 2:58
MOSES - According to Deut 34:6, nobody knows the whereabouts of his buried body. Jude 9 depicts a mysterious rivalry between Satan and the Archangel Michelangelo, battling for Moses' body.

What added to the possibility of the bodily assumption of Elijah and Moses is their bodily appearance in Jesus' Transfiguration in Mt. 17:3.

Some people dispute the possibility of bodily assumption of these OT figures on the ground that they couldn't possibly have been received into heaven when heaven, according to Church teaching, was not opened up until the completion of Jesus' economy of salvation. According to Catholic Answer, this can only be explained as "a special grace" that God accorded these OT individuals.

You are quite correct in saying that the assumptions of Enoch, Elijah, and Moses - if true, proven, and scripturally established - means that the Assumption of Mary cannot be seen as a mere imagination of the Catholic mind. In fact, the belief in Mary's Assumption dates back to the apostolic age, and the celebration of the Feast of Assumption had been a common practice as far back as the 4th century. Incidentally Martin Luther made the observance of this feast mandatory on his liturgical calendar.

Scripturally speaking, references to Mary's Assumption are understandably lacking due to the fact that the event did not occur until most of the NT books had been written. But the cosmic "woman" in Rev 12, who "gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod"; who was clothed with glory and appeared in bodily form in heaven; does speak volume about this doctrine.

It is only fitting that the Bible begins with a "woman" who in her virginity put on leaves of shame, and ends with a "woman" who in her virginity put on the garment of glory (cf. St. Ephrem of Syria, Mathews and Amar, op.cit., 278-279).

Sunday, April 27, 2014

3rd Sunday of Easter - The Mystery of the Risen Christ Continues to Unfold

Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Easter - Year A:
Acts 2:14, 22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35


The readings of the 3rd Sunday of Easter include a bold proclamation of the resurrection (Acts), a moral exhortation for the newly baptized (1 Peter) and the appearance of the Risen Jesus to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke). Each text illumines a different feature of the Easter mystery in which believers are immersed during this season. In this reflection, we will ponder the drama of the Emmaus narrative.

Devastated by “the things that have been happening there these last few days” in Jerusalem, the two disciples of Jesus were leaving the city – their place of sorrow and despair. Sounds familiar? We hate to admit it, but the truth is: we are the two disciples. When confronted with problems, when overwhelmed by heart-breaking experiences, we often choose to run!

Like other resurrection appearances, this one is marked by delayed recognition: when they saw Jesus, they recognized him not. In Luke’s words, “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him”. Anger, vengeance, fear, despair, bewilderment, other emotions and human frailties can often keep us from seeing the truth.

Then something very interesting happened. While they were having meal with Jesus, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him”! How did this come about? Apparently, the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread; in the actions of taking, blessing, breaking, and giving – the familiar ones highlighted in the feeding of the five thousand and the last supper! When our priests use the same actions to celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy, will our eyes also be opened wide to recognize Jesus in the bread and wine?

Rejuvenated and enlightened, the disciples returned to Jerusalem, the place that they had rejected, to share their joyful and mystical experience of encountering the Risen Christ. As Christians, our Jerusalem is this world, which we often wish to flee. Now that we are also rejuvenated and enlightened by the Easter mystery, let us follow the example of the two disciples to bravely embrace the world, sharing our joy and hope with those who have yet to experience the grace of encountering the Risen Christ!


References:
3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A, Foundations in Faith, RCL, Texas, 1998
Henri Nouwen, With Burning Hearts - A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life, Orbis, Maryknoll, New York, 1994

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Kowloon Walled City - A Sad Chapter That Remains Alive and Well in the History of Hong Kong

You can't possibly watch this video about the Kowloon Walled City (九龍城寨), a 17-minute Wall Street Journal documentary produced in English, without feeling a little down. It also brings back haunting visions and gruesome images for many of us who grew up in Hong Kong because the Kowloon Walled City, while unique, was in many ways a miniature of many middle-to-lower class districts of the former British colony. In fact, the neighborhood I grew up from - Central Tsuen Wan - bore much resemblance to the scenes in the video.

Maybe it was not as bad; but let me tell you, it was pretty darn close. I remember specifically one brutal and heated fight involving 7 or 8 gangsters from two opposing triad groups that unfolded before my very eyes shortly before I left for Canada to study university. It happened in broad daylight in the area where my family lived. The fight was animal like; it was bloody; it was fierce. I stood there, one hand covering my mouth (I could have vomited) and the other stroking my heart; and I told myself I would never, ever want to live in that place again!!

Still four years later, I graduated from university and returned to live in Tsuen Wan for four more years before I managed to leave Hong Kong for good. As we, the people from Hong Kong, glow in the warmth and happiness of this wealthy-looking financial city in the Far East, the shadowy and grim images of the Kowloon Walled City or, for that matter, of Tsuen Wan, which I called home for more than 20 years, are lurking in the background, making a mockery of the former colony’s good name - the Pearl of the Orient - and reminding us of a very dark chapter of her history.

At the same time, we must recognize with grateful hearts that these were the grass-root people who made the mighty engine of the former colony turn in the sixties and seventies when its economy started to take flight. In a very real way, they made Hong Kong what it is today. They also made us, people who came from or live in Hong Kong, who we are. Forget them not when we count our blessings in our prayer.

Friday, April 4, 2014

忙,站在人身旁,顯得很了不起!

忙不是人所喜愛的夥伴,但卻形影不離地跟隨著我們;多數人都很寂寞,卻總有忙這麼一個不想要的朋友。

忙,她很多時是人自己找回來的伴侶;有她總比孤零零一個人好。

忙,她很清楚自己的身價;站在人身旁,顯得很了不起,因為她看透了人的心事,知道人若失去了她,會被其它人恥笑,說他百無聊賴,是社會和人羣的遺棄者。

忙,她就像個無良的私人護理,當長者與她熟識和慣性地依賴她後,她便操控長者的一切,使長者成為她的奴隸,甚至佔據他擁有的一切,使他晚年一無所有。

如洪濤般洶湧而至的emails突然停頓了,相信先前提及,與我重新聯絡的三位老同窗現在都乖乖地,重新帶上「忙」的軛和鎖,一切又回復了「正常」。

我也「忙」於完成to-do list各事項和有關期限:二佰多人參與的逾越晚宴聯絡工作還未展開,晚宴中要講解的道理和slides還未整理好;耶穌受難日的退省講詞還未寫好;要準備和開始出年靈修課程的宣傳;還有天氣轉暖,殘舊的冷氣機要換;還有... 忙!忙!忙!

但今天去完Toogood Pond漫步默想後,我終於忍不著與忙起了爭拗。我告訴她無論她怎麼重要,也不及那多年不見,最近才重新探望我的「友情」重要;我告訴她雖然她使我感到生活充實,但自從我與「友情」重新相遇,我才明白充實的生活是怎樣的。於是我不顧一切,放下「忙」去探望「友情」,再電郵三位老同窗! 並提醒他們,在忙不斷踩踏之下,也不要忘記「友情」在你身旁耐心等待啊!

此刻心中響起The Way的《基督的軛》又稱《忙》...

(閱讀有關文章《順流逆流》)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Old Friends



Top among my list of things to thank the Lord for in my prayer this morning was the blessing of re-establishing communication with three very good former classmates from my secondary school days in Hong Kong - two of them now residing in Hong Kong and the third one in Vancouver.

Using old-fashioned technology – telephone – one of the two former classmates in Hong Kong was able to track down the other one. From there, new - or newer - technology took over: the two of them emailed me, I added in the email of the Vancouver classmate, and suddenly emails were flying in and out of our email boxes like swarming minnows in the waters of Toogood Pond as the four of us scrambled to bring one another up to speed on almost forty years of activities and changes.

The feeling was amazing and at the same time a little strange, joyful and yet a little sad, sweet but inexplicably heart heavy. Everything that we used to know so well about each other – how we wrote, how we expressed ourselves, how we reacted to things, what each one of us liked or didn't like, our different inclinations and emotions, etc. – suddenly became quite unfamiliar. So you observed, you asked, you savored the familiar traits that remained and adjusted to the new ones that caught you off balance - it’s almost like starting all over again! The experience was fascinating and exciting to say the least.

Of the two former classmates in Hong Kong, one is a teacher and a scholar due for retirement in short order; the other one is a former government official but is now retired. The Vancouver friend is not only my former secondary school classmate; we also studied together and graduated from the same university in Canada. Being a financial advisor overseeing numerous investment portfolios, he can’t see how his clients will allow him to retire before 75.

As we get older, we come to appreciate old friends even more. Not only do they bring sweet memories and love; the time you spent with them, the interactions, the mere experience of growing up together, the companionship, the laughter and the tears - every moment of those youthful days has now become an integral part of your life. In a very real way, they are the people who define who you are. This is why I was thankful in my morning prayer: rediscovering a piece of me that had been missing for years. The rediscovery, joyful and sweet as it is, is like a jolt that triggers in my heart, and I'm sure in theirs as well, an eruption of euphoria and nostalgia together with a good mix of sadness and helplessness. Sad because those youthful images still vivid on your mind are in stark contrast to what you see; helpless because you realize that nobody, including yourself, can withstand the unrelenting and ever-forward-moving wheel of time.

Emails are still going back and forth among us as I write. As soon as all the emotions have subsided, our lives would probably return to normal. Tardiness might once again get in our way and we might not hear much from each other. But the friendship that has withstood almost 40 years of inactivity and somehow emerged strong and untarnished will surely continue to live on. For safe and sacred in our hearts is a special quarter carved out specifically for the occupation of this very special inhabitant - our friendship old as wine.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Second Conversion

In witnessing to God’s love and the power of the Gospel, I often share with people through my church programs and speaking engagements the amazing experience of my personal spiritual conversion in the nineties when moved by the Spirit I started reading Vatican II, Catholicism of the Catholic Church, Church Fathers, Scott Hahn, etc., and eventually ended up studying theology and retiring early to serve God. The conversion was intense, the duration lengthy, and the outcome drastic. My personal comfort zone was destabilized, and my life turned up side down. The experience has helped me to relate well to some of the famous conversion stories in the Bible, particularly those of St. Paul (Acts 9) and St. Peter (Luke 5:1-11).

However, if my conversion in the nineties was like a Big Bang from which my spiritual life emerged anew, my awakening in the subsequent years to the importance of the virtue of humility was akin to another powerful conversion that added substance to my new life and turned the initial big splash into a lasting and sustainable journey.

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38).

Mary’s words of faith, obedience, and humility will always resonate in my heart as I continue to battle to wrestle to the ground the beast in me that speaks deceitful and boastful language “from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet” (Rev 13:16). No less useful in this regard is St. Paul's beautiful teaching below, which has become the guideline that I follow to the letter in using the spiritual gifts that God has graciously given me to minister to Him in our church community:

For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned. For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:3-8).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Deceiving Dreams and Crafty Speeches of the Politicians

Olivia Chow had just delivered a 15-minute speech to launch her campaign to become the mayor of Toronto. It was a very good speech - a typical politician's speech that touched many hearts but provided no specific promises or actions, a spirit-lifting and motivational rally that brought hope which we know will vanish as soon as everyone returns to the political reality of the City. But that's what the politicians do, that's what they are good at, whether it's George W. Bush or Clinton, Jean Chrietien or Harper, Mayor Ford or Olivia Chow. We, the good citizens who will be at the mercy of these political candidates once they are given the authority and power, are like mindless little children: no matter how many times we've been taken to the cleaners, we are still happy to hop on the merry-go-round to enjoy the dreams deceivingly weaved up, and the speeches craftily delivered, by our politicians.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring Fever!

It's been a very long winter here in Canada. Windchill of -14°C this morning (-8°C no windchill). Can you imagine!

But the sun is shinning bright. It's March already; March 20 is the first day of spring; and we are moving the clock ahead by 1 hour this Sunday. If my imagination was not playing tricks on me, I think I even heard a bird trying out its long-forgotten tunes this morning.

Hopefully winter would finally let go of its strangling hold on the collective throat of this poor northern nation!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Undelivered Letter

Copied below is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to Sister Marie Ancilla Ouang 3 days ago:

Whenever we meet, Sister, we often talk about the Church and the Catholic faith. Here’s some faith-related news that might be of interest to you. During the Windsor CCC gathering last night, Virginia, the hostess, gave me a magazine published by the “Communion and Liberation” movement...In the magazine, the movement’s current president, Julián Carrón, commented on the recent terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall of Nairobi, Kenya: "The issue is whether or not you have met something that can stand up to the fallout of the terrorist attack. Do we have a certainty that can withstand this impact? The challenge is for a situation like this to be the occasion to grow in the certainty of Christ." Life is indeed full of uncertainties. For the followers of Christ, we have the only certainty that counts – the love of Christ. It can withstand even a terrorist attack. I know for you it can withstand this unfortunate accident too…

Since Sister Ouang had been hospitalized, I was unable to reach her. As a result, the letter had been sitting on my desk, undelivered. Never would I have guessed that this would be my last letter to her, and she would never read it.

Yes, life is full of uncertainties. While the news was unexpected and the loss of a good spiritual friend and mentor a heart-shattering and painful experience, it's good to know that Sister passed away peacefully in her sleep this morning. At this very moment, she's probably all smiles and resting comfortably in God's bosom because now she has the only certainty that counts - the love of Christ.

In witnessing to the Good News of Christ since my personal spiritual conversion, I often told people how Sister Ouang, an honest and straight shooter who minced no words, woke me up from my spiritual slumber by calling me a "cafeteria Catholic" during a family group meeting many years ago. Up until two months ago - the last time Sister and I met - I still thanked her for "straightening me out" because I considered her honesty a much needed wake-up call or medicine that God had prescribed to kick-start my personal spiritual conversion.

The Chinese Catholic community in Canada has experienced unbelievable trials and perils in the last year or so. Now through the communion of saints we know that in the court of heaven we have one more beautiful and righteous soul who will pray for us incessantly. As we mourn the loss of a faithful servant of God who loved the Church dearly, let's pray that Sister Ouang will chime in with the heavenly host of angels to bring peace and blessings to the Chinese Catholic community, particularly those in the GTA whom she had served with love and dedication for so many years.

*** EPILOGE *** (Added on March 2, 2014)

I had the honour of being one of Sister Ouang's pall-bearers in her funeral. On that frigid, bone-chilling day of January, in the austerity and simplicity of the Toronto winter that characterized so well the life of this distinguished servant of God, I joined Sister Ouang's family members and friends to bid her our last farewell as we huddled and shivered under a tent erected to provide the guests with temporary shelter. Together with a white carnation and the pall-bearer's gloves, I left on top of her casket the undelivered letter....