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.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


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) 。




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.