Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Finding Hopes, Promises, and Future in the Bible

The four years I spent in Hong Kong after completing undergraduate studies in Canada were easily one of the lowest points of my life, if not the lowest. Strange as it may sound, I just couldn’t blend in well with the city’s hectic pace of life and its social and cultural fabrics even though it was my birthplace and I grew up there. I kept looking for a way out but found none. Eventually with God’s blessing my application to migrate to Canada was unexpectedly approved. As soon as the news came, my world, that had seemed so stagnant and boxed in for four long years, suddenly came alive. Marriage, further studies, career, family – critical issues and plans that had been held back indefinitely due to uncertainty of future suddenly could go full speed ahead. Sweet was life when hopes and promises were plentiful and the future clearly made known.

If hopes, promises, and clarity of future are important for this life, imagine how much more important it is to have the same when dealing with the abstracts and mysteries of the eternal life. Where can we find true hopes and promises that will lead us to eternal happiness? How can our future be ascertained? Over the centuries, these are questions unanswerable to many a brilliant-minded scholar or philosopher. However, those whose hearts are simple as a child will find that the answers are readily available in the Bible. It provides hopes and promises in great abundance and lets us know clearly where we go from here and how.

The value of the Bible in this regard is made abundantly clear in the Mass readings of the Epiphany of the Lord. In the first reading, Trito Isaiah, generally believed to be Isaiah’s disciples who wrote during the restoration of the Jerusalem temple, assured Judah that in spite of the woes and chaos of the post-exilic time, glorious days for Jerusalem were ahead. Not only would she recover fully from many years of devastation, she would also become the shining light for all nations.

Shining light for ALL nations? Talk is cheap. It would surely take a miracle for the lowly and downtrodden Jerusalem to become the glorious crown that God promised through Trito Isaiah.

A miracle we sought, and a miracle was what we got. The promise, as it turned out, was to be fulfilled by the Church that Jesus instituted for the salvation and sanctification of all nations – the Church that is one, holy, Catholic (universal, for all nations), and apostolic; the Church where Christ, the King, would take his throne; the Church that in God’s will is to become the New Jerusalem. This is why we chant in the Responsorial Psalm, “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you” (Ps 72:11); and why St. Paul shared the same hope and promise in the second reading, “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph 3:6).

Sounds great but where was the Savior who was to come to perform the said miracle? There, “born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod” (Mt. 2:1) was the infant Jesus, the Savior of all nations; there, above his poor and humble birthplace the star from Jacob would shine as prophet Balaam had predicted (c.f. Numbers 24:17); and there, prostrating before him were the magi, representing all nations from afar and bringing with them the homage of humanity as it journeyed toward Christ (see Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth – The Infancy Narratives, p.97), so we hear in the gospel reading.

Hopes, promises, and future – if there’s any difference between those we experience in our daily lives and those brought to us by the Bible, it’s that while both are uplifting and assuring, only the latter have the finality of complete certainty and guaranteed fulfillment because God's “words are trustworthy and true” (Rev 22:6).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

創世紀和若望福音的創造

(此文是十二月八日已發表的英文版 "God's Creation According to Genesis and John" 的中文版。鳴謝《生命恩泉》翻譯組幫助翻譯。)

「在起初已有聖言,聖言與天主同在,聖言就是天主」(若望福音1:1)。在這個聖誕節主日的福音讀經(2016年12月25日主日), 我們聽到 <若望福音> 的序言。比起其他三本福音書, <若望福音>的特點之一是它的序言著意地採用舊約聖經第一本書 <創世紀> 的第一句話「在起初」(希伯來文 是“be-resheeth” ,拉丁文是“Genesis“,即「起源」的意思 ) 。<創世紀> 這書的名字亦是從這句話衍生。

透過採用 <創世紀> 的同一句話來開始這本福音,若望的用意是要和我們講論兩個「起初」。 第一是族譜上耶穌的開始。瑪竇福音記載的族譜在時間上從亞巴郎向前追溯到耶穌,而路加福音記載的, 在時間上則從耶穌向後追溯到原祖亞當。反觀 <若望福音>中耶穌的族譜,它超越時間,上達天主,出離此世。換言之,若望用神來之筆將耶穌的根源直接追溯到天主:「在起初已有聖言,聖言與天主同在,聖言就是天主。」(若 1:1) 瑪竇和路加列的族譜是歷史和人類的族譜,但若望所列的是屬神和從天主而來的族譜。試問天主的起源,除了天主自己外, 還能有誰?

第二,若望引用 <創世紀> 中耳熟能詳的第一句話,目的是要人聯想起 <創世紀> 所記述的創造 -- 那一切從天主而來,也由天主而終的創造。若望這樣做,其作用是要使我們留意,他的福音所帶出的,是個不一樣的創造;是個因著基督救贖而帶來的,不再有黑暗和人類能享受真正生命的新創造 (參 若1:4-5,10:10)。

神學家將創造看成 <創世紀> 和 <若望福音> 開頭幾章的共通點, 這看法絕不是憑空想像的「幻想神學」。他們從聖經中找到很多令人眼界大開的證據來支持這觀點, 以下是其中一些特別值得提出的:

• 既然萬物是藉著聖言而造成的(若1:3,哥1:16,弗2:10,箴8:22-30),在這兩個有關創造的記載中祂當然在場,而且祂的臨在是明顯和不可或缺的。 (<創世紀> 記載,萬物是藉著天主「說」-- 即天主聖言 -- 而造成的;<若望福音> 記載,凡受造的,沒有一樣不是由聖言而造成的 (若1:3)。)

• 像 <創世紀> 一樣,若望創造的敘述是一天天地帶出的,順序地講述每一天內所發生的事情和活動,總共述說了七天 (若1:1, 29, 35, 43是頭四天, 再加上 2:1「第三天」所代表的三天,共七天)。

• 猶如 <創世紀> 的記載,創造天地萬物在第七天安息日完成,那一天是神聖的,每個人(造於第六天)都應該進入這一天(天主的一天)而成為聖的。同樣,若望所陳述的創造, 其高峯也發生在第七天的加納婚宴。這婚宴反映着天上「羔羊婚宴」的情景(默19:9),即安息日所期待和指向的,天主和成了新創造的人在末世時的全面結合。

「那傳播喜訊者的足跡是多麼美麗!」(依 52:7,讀經一) 首先是上主親自說話 (希1:2,讀經二),然後是宗徒們,現在是教會,包括你和我。這個聖誕節, 讓我們去報佳音。 讓我們攀上崇山,任情呼喊。 讓我們盡己所能,給全世界傳喜訊。因為我們的主基督,即默西亞和時期一滿而生於童貞聖母瑪利亞的聖嬰(迦4:4) 已來臨了! 祂為了我們人類並為了我們的得救而來,也為了降生成人而來。因為天主子要從天降下成為人子,讓世上人子們能轉化而成為天主子,即變為祂的新創造! 這是若望寫福音的理由。這簡單的道理就是我們必須宣揚的真正聖誕訊息!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Creation According to Genesis and John

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The prologue of the gospel of John, which we hear in the gospel reading of the Nativity of the Lord (Sunday, December 25, 2016), sets itself apart from the other three gospels by adopting the opening expression of the first book of the Old Testament, “In the beginning,” or “be-resheeth” in Hebrew, from which the name of the book, “Genesis” which means “origin” in Latin, was derived.

By adopting the opening expression of Genesis, John wishes to communicate to us two “beginnings”. First, the beginning of Jesus in terms of his genealogy. Unlike the Matthean genealogy which goes forward in time from Abraham to Jesus, and the Lucan genealogy which goes backward in time from Jesus to Adam, the Johannine genealogy transcends time and goes “upward”. In fact, it is out of this world in that it traces Jesus’ origin directly to God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Whereas Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies are historical and human, John’s is transcendent and divine. For what is God’s origin but God Himself?

Second, in repeating Genesis’ well-known opening statement, John is harkening back to God’s be-all-and-end-all act of creation in Genesis. In so doing, John wishes to draw our attention to a very different kind of creation account that his gospel endeavors to offer: one whose primary concern is the New Creation that Christ ushered in through redemption, one in which darkness is no more and true life is what the human race will enjoy (cf. John 1:4-5, 10:10).

What causes the theologians to believe creation is the common thread connecting the opening chapters of Genesis and John is more than “imaginative theology”. The scriptural evidences that they came up with to support this position are eye-opening to say the least. Worth mentioning among others are:

• Since everything is created through the Word (John 1:3, Col 1:16, Eph 2:10, Prov 8:22-30), His presence was prominent and indispensable in both creation accounts (in Genesis, God created by what He “said”, i.e. by His word; in John, all things came to be through the Word (John 1:3)).

• Like Genesis, John’s creation account contains a day-by-day narration of events and activities, totaling 7 days (John 1:1, 29, 35, 43 being the first 4 days plus 3 days – “On the third days” - in 2:1).

• Like Genesis whose creation culminates in the Sabbath on the 7th day, the day of holiness (the Lord's day) to which man (made on the 6th day) must strive to belong, John’s creation account also culminates in the 7th day in the wedding in Cana, a mirror image of the heavenly wedding of the Lamb (Rev 19:9), i.e. the eschatological union of God and man in the New Creation that Sabbath points us to.

Beautiful indeed “are the feet of him who brings glad tidings” (Is 52:7, the first reading), first the Lord Himself personally (Heb 1:2, 2nd reading), then the apostles, and now the Church which includes you and me. This Christmas let’s go caroling. Let’s get on top of the mountain and shout at the top of our lungs. Let’s do whatever it takes to bring glad tidings to the world. For Christ our Lord - the Messiah, the Holy Infant who was born through the Virgin Mary in the fullest of time (Gal 4:4) - is come! For us men and for our salvation He comes. To become human He comes. For the Son of God must come down from heaven to become the Son of Man so that the sons of men could be transformed to become the sons of God - the New Creation! That is why John wrote his gospel. That in a nutshell is the real Christmas message we proclaim.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

自由珍貴

(注意:原文於2016年11月23日用英語在此網誌刊登。鳴謝《生命恩泉》翻譯組幫助翻譯。)

「你們悔改吧!因為天國近了。」(瑪竇福音3:1-2)洗者若翰在曠野裡呼喊,就如依撒意亞所預言的,即在曠野裡將出現呼喊者的聲音, 為了預備上主的道路(參見依撒意亞先知書40:2)。 人類要悔改,因為歷史已進入了最後的時期, 基督要來「把麥子收進倉庫,至於糠秕,就要用那永不熄滅的火來燒掉。」(瑪竇福音3:12)。

我們面臨一個非常重要的選擇:悔改的話, 我們會進入上主的倉庫,執迷不悟的話,會被拋入永火。

自原祖父母犯罪之後, 世界失去秩序,人和大自然不能和睦相處 (參閱創3:17-19; <天主教教理> 378-9)。依撒意亞預言的「上主的倉庫」 ,是一個新的世界秩序, 個中瀰漫着完美與和諧:「豺狼將與羔羊共處,小豹將與小山羊一起躺臥, 小牛和幼獅將一同飼養,一個幼童即能帶領牠們。母牛和母熊將一起牧放,小牛和幼獅也一同躺臥;獅子要像牛一樣吃草。嬰兒將在蝮蛇的洞口遊戲,幼童將伸手探摸毒蛇的窩穴」 (依撒意亞11:6-8)。這是個多麽美麗奇妙的世界啊!我們要怎樣才能生活其中?很簡單,善用自由選擇去悔改和接受耶穌的救恩吧!

在聖經裡,人的自由選擇,非常珍貴, 備受尊崇,即使要付出沉重的代價, 天主都會不惜一切來保衛它。 掃祿皈依天主成為保祿以前,天主容許他迫害早期教會。祂也讓伯多祿不認耶穌,和不阻止猶達斯出賣自己獨生子。 為了將以色列人從埃及的奴役中釋放出來,天主展現祂的大能將紅海分開。為了將我們從罪惡的奴役中釋放出來,祂的獨生子在十字架上為我們受盡苦難而死。

每一次當人類的自由受到威脅時,天主都會義無反顧地解救我們,從來沒有例外。假如自由被剝奪,人還算是什麼?天主在第六天以祂的肖像來造人,人是受造物中等級最高的(<教理>342),人是創造工程的巔峰(<教理>343),以天主的光榮為依歸(<教理>353)。 人被賦予支配和自由地管理所有受造物的權利(創1:26)。 事實上,天空、大地、及整個受造界都是為人而創造(<教理>358)。 人若喪失了照顧天主受造物的自由, 若喪失了跨越第六天而進入第七天的自由 - 即與天主共度安息日,與祂一起共享完美聖善的自由 - 那麼,人還算是甚麼?(這跨越的力量是聖子在「第八天」復活所帶來的,即代表著新創造的新的一週的第一天 (<教理>349)。)

無論我們要為任何人類理想而奮鬥,要建立任何團體和社會,要支持任何領導者和政權,或要跟隨任何宗教信仰,如果自由被壓制,這一切行動和努力,都成了黑暗勢力在歷史洪洪巨流中的暗湧,與願意讓人自由的造物主的計劃互相抗衡,水火不容。 他們違背聖經的中心思想,與所有美好的事物作敵,傷害耶穌的救贖工作,絕對不值得助長和跟隨。

上週 2016年11月22日,在美國白宮頒發 <總統自由勳章> 儀式裡,特別表彰了21位傑出人物,當中包括米高.佐頓(Michael Jordon),戴安娜·羅斯(Dianna Ross),羅拔·列福(Robert Redford),比爾·蓋茨(Bill Gates, 慈善家),瑪嘉烈·咸美頓(Margaret Hamilton, 科學家) ,林瓔(Maya Lin, 藝術和建築),洛恩·邁克爾斯(Lorne Michaels, <週六夜現場> 的製作人),牛頓.緬路(Newt Minow, 法律)和 克亞度.柏德(Eduardo Padron, 教育)等當中的幾位得獎者。

在電視機前, 我非常關注地看著每位得獎者輪流上台,接受奧巴馬總統的勳章。 他們當中許多人看起來年紀已經相當大,身體也顯得虛弱,看得出他們的全盛黃金年代已經過去了 - 雖然年代己經過去,但絕沒有浪費掉,他們對美國和世界作出貢獻, 他們享受的自由 影響着我們, 幫助我們每個人變得更好, 幫助世界達至更高的自由秩序。我觀看整個儀式,從開始到結束我都被迷住了。 我一路看著,一路流著感動的眼淚,為受勳者和天主堅持捍衛人類的自由而感恩。

聲明:筆者對領受<總統自由勳章> 者所表達的感受,不代表他認同他們各自的生活方式、道德價值觀、和政治立場。





Saturday, November 26, 2016

Advent and Handel’s Messiah

Hear the Christmas carols on the radio stations? Indeed we are in the season of Advent again. The 3rd Sunday of Advent reflects on the following readings: Isaiah 35:1-6,10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11.

“Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you” (Isaiah 35:4, 1st reading).

“Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8, 2nd reading).

“Go and tell…what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Matthew 11:4-5, gospel reading).

Listening to the above-mentioned Mass readings is like listening to Handel’s Messiah: Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted…O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion…Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter Of Zion…Then Shall The Eyes Of The Blind Be Open’d…Hallelujah…Amen!

The readings and the oratorical lyrics bring hope and anticipation, comfort your heart with healing and affirmation, stir your mind with joy and exultation.

Upon a young parishioner’s recommendation, who was a member of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, my wife and I attended a Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Toronto Mendelssohn Choir concert on Handel’s Messiah during the Christmas season several years ago. The unbelievable experience began as soon as we stepped into the concourse of the Roy Thomson Hall. From the pedestrians milling around in the downtown streets to a sold-out crowd of two thousand plus concert-goers, from a secular society that got annoyed at the slightest hint of religiosity to a church-like congregation of people who were unabashedly determined to share their common adoration for Christ, from an increasingly narcissistic world that valued only personal obsessions to a community of art and music that came to admire the out-of-the-world talents of one of the most polished and brilliant musical composers and oratorios writers ever lived - the difference was day and night, and the contrast stark.

The sterling performance of Hallelujah brought the whole house of 2000 plus people to their feet, who, following the long-standing royal protocol, stood and rejoiced in great jubilation. The powerful experience prompted us to return to attend the concert year after year for 5 years in a row. On this third Sunday of Advent, my heart is once again stirring with joy and passion, itching to experience once again the hope, the joy, the agony, and the exultation of Handel’s Messiah.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

It's All About Freedom

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” shouted John the Baptist (Mt. 3:1-2), the voice crying out in the desert that Isaiah had predicted would prepare the way of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 40:2). Repent because human history was on the threshold of its final days. Christ would come to “gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:12).

Repent and to the Lord’s barn we go, harden our hearts and to the unquenchable fire we are thrown. It’s all about a very important choice.

Unlike the current world order in which man and nature have been at odds with each other ever since our first parents fell into a state of sin (cf. Gen 3:17-19; CCC 378-9), “the Lord’s barn” as envisioned by Isaiah is a new world order that brings perfect harmony: “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid…the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair” (Isaiah 11:6-8). How can we live in this amazing and beautiful world? Make good use of our freedom to choose to repent and accept Jesus’ salvific grace.

In the Scriptures, man’s freedom to choose was something so precious and highly esteemed that God would do anything to protect it, even if it meant exacting a heavy price. Saul, who became Paul after conversion, was allowed to persecute the early Church; Peter to deny Jesus; Judas to hand over God’s only Son. To free Israel from the slavery of Egypt, God parted the Red Sea. To free us from the slavery of sin, His only Son suffered and died for us on the cross.

Every time when the integrity of man’s freedom was at stake, God would go to the wall for him - every time, it never failed. For deprived of freedom, what is man? Made on the 6th day in God’s image, man was top of the hierarchy of creatures (CCC 342), the summit of the Creator’s work (CCC 343), and destined for the glory of God (CCC 353). He was given the dominance and the freedom to govern all creatures (Genesis 1:26). In fact, all creatures, including heavens and earth, were created for the good of man (CCC 358). So, what is man if deprived of his freedom to take care of God’s creation, the freedom to rise above the 6th day to join God on the Sabbath - the 7th day, the Lord’s day, the day of perfection and holiness – through the transforming power of the 8th day – the new day, the day of Christ’s Resurrection, the day of the New Creation (CCC 349)?

No matter what human ideals we strive for, what communities and societies we build, what leaders and governing regimes we support, what religious faiths we believe in, if human freedom is suppressed, they are just accomplices of the powers of darkness that have been lurking in the undercurrents of history, always eager to pounce on the Creator whose plan is to make us free. They strike at the very heart of the Scriptures. As such, they must be seen as nemeses against everything that is good, an affront to Jesus work of redemption, and thus unworthy of their power and authority.

Just this week on November 22, 2016, in the Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony at the White House, special recognition was given to 21 luminaries that included Michael Jordan, Dianna Ross, Robert Redford, Bill Gates (philanthropy), Margaret Hamilton (scientist), Maya Lin (art and architecture), Lorne Michaels (producer of Saturday Night Live), Newt Minow (law), and Eduardo Padron (education), just to name a few.

I watched with intense interest as each recipient walked on stage to receive his/her medal from President Obama. Many of them looked old and physically frail for their golden and productive years were well gone - gone but not wasted because their contributions to America and to the world, made possible by the freedom that they enjoyed, had helped make every one of us a better person and the world a freer order. I was captivated by the whole ceremony from the beginning to the end. I watched and I cried like a puppy, out of thankfulness to the recipients and to God who has been adamant in defending human freedom.

Disclaimer: My outpouring of emotions for the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients must not be perceived as my endorsement of their personal ways of living, moral values, and political aspirations.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Virtuous Communities

EWTN news had an article on Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia entitled How to fix our broken sexual culture. It quoted Archbishop Chaput on a number of issues concerning marriage, sex, and family. I find his comments really enlightening and inspiring. Recited below is one that is of particular interest to me:

ON COUNTERING INFIDELITY, DIVORCE, SEXUAL VIOLENCE, PORN CULTURE - "We’re getting a culture that’s just hugely preoccupied with sexuality, and being restrained sexually is not considered a virtue anymore...I think it’s really important for us to encourage young people to form communities of young people, peers, who can give them support in the face of this culture of cheapening human relationships...[These virtuous communities are] really what the Church should be. It should be a community of people who think like Jesus and want to act like He calls us to act.”

"Being restrained sexually is not considered a virtue anymore," the Archbishop said. How true! In today's culture, such restraint is often considered "not exercised"; if exercised, "unreal"; and if real, "weird".

I think Archbishop Chaput's idea of encouraging young people to form virtuous communities is inspiring. But given the overpowering and invasive force of the unchaste culture, such practice should be extended to everyone, both young and old. Anybody interested in initiating one?

For viewers getting increasingly edgy about Pope Francis' controversial exhortation, Amoris laetitia, you will find the Archbishop's comment below re-assuring:

“[In putting Amoris laetitia into practice] the Holy Father himself states clearly that neither Church teaching nor the canonical discipline concerning marriage has changed...[Francis’ exhortation] should therefore be read in continuity with the great treasury of wisdom handed on by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church … and previous magisterial documents.”


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lord, Teach Us to Forgive!

A group of my Bible Study Program participants asked me three questions about forgiveness (see items f to h below). It's always a pleasure to share my view for what it’s worth. But before answering their three questions, allow me to share first of all a few insights that crossed my mind when I reflected on this subject:

a. WHY SHOULD WE FORGIVE? - Unforgivable as we are, God has chosen to forgive us in the first place. How can we deserve God’s forgiveness if we ourselves don’t forgive? Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

b. TO FORGIVE IS TO FORSAKE JUSTICE? - One huge deterrence that holds us back when we try to forgive is that we feel like forgiving a person who is clearly in the wrong is to undermine justice and truth. But how do we know the offender’s wrongdoing against us cannot somehow be justified? The person’s offence may well be justifiable but somehow we just fail to see the justification due to human frailties and limitations. For example, a serial killer who attempted to kill you might have serious mental issues that he had no control over. This is why God, who sees everything and is all just, must be the final and only Judge.

c. TO FORGIVE IS TO SUCCUMB TO EVIL? – It’s quite the contrary. A forgiving person is determined and courageous in that he’s decided to fight and break the chain of evil with love and humility. His is a very strong faith because he believes in the eventual triumph of good over evil. Contrast a forgiving person with somebody who doesn’t trust God’s overseeing power (i.e. God’s providence) and decides to “take things into his own hands” by resorting to revenge, hatred, and violence, and it’s easy to see why it takes faith to forgive.

d. HARD TO LIKE SOMEONE WHO OFFENDED YOU? - If liking him is hard to do, at least respect him due to the fact that the image of God is in him. If God would love him, so much so as to sacrifice His only Son for him, why wouldn’t you?

e. FORGIVENESS IS OUR ONLY RELIEF – When we do not forgive, we are the prisoners of anger, hatred, and even vengeance. Forgiveness is the only way to free ourselves from the grips of such negative emotions. Therefore, forgiveness sets free not only the offender but also the victim of the offence.

Now the Bible Study Program participants' three questions:

f. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE FORGIVEN SOMEONE? – Pope Francis had this well-dissected: “It is one thing to sense a sudden surge of hostility when offended, but quite another to give in to it, letting it take root in our hearts: ‘Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger’ (Eph 4:26). My advice is never to let the day end without making peace in the family…Our first reaction when we are annoyed should be one of heartfelt blessing, asking God to bless, free and heal that person” (Amoris Laetitia, n.104).

g. HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE FORGIVEN SOMEONE? – Following the Pope’s illustration above, it’s fair to say that feeling offended is a natural human instinct, but we must not allow the anger caused by the offence to take root in our hearts. If you have forgiven someone, you will hold no anger or resentment against him.

h. DOES THAT MEAN YOU NO LONGER HAVE HATE OR UPSET FEELINGS ABOUT THAT SITUATION? IS THERE ANY STEPS WHEN YOU FORGIVE? – As mentioned in the Holy Father’s exhortation above, you can resent the situation or the unjust action, but you must not allow anger or hatred to overpower you so that your initial resentment turns into anger or hatred towards the person. Based on the Holy Father’s teaching above, we can identify three distinctive steps that lead to forgiveness: (1) anger - a natural human instinct when we get offended; (2) determination not to sin because of the anger – use the power of love to put your anger to rest; forgive the offender; tell yourself points a, b, c, d, e above; have the humility to initiate reconciliation with the offender; and (3) bless, free, and heal the offender (in so doing, you also bless, free, and heal yourself).

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Repentance

“Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:9-10). True to his words, which we heard in the gospel reading of Sunday, October 30, Jesus sought out Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector and a wealthy man, and granted him and his household the gift of salvation.

Zaachaeus went looking for Jesus only to discover that Jesus was actually looking for him!

God is actively and constantly on the lookout for the sinners. This we learn as soon as we turn the first few pages of the Bible. Immediately after man’s fall into sin, God went looking for him. “Where are you?” was the first question that God asked man (cf. Genesis 3:9). After finding Adam and Eve, who had disobeyed His commandment not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God immediately promised them salvation by revealing his saving plan for mankind in the Protoevangelium, i.e. the “first gospel” in Genesis 3:14-19.

God is indeed loving and merciful, always on the lookout for sinners and ready to forgive them. The 1st reading of the same Sunday echoes a similar message: “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people's sins that they may repent” (Wis 11:23).

In the Bible, God’s eagerness to save us sometimes almost appears overdone. In Isaiah, He is portrayed as a man who can’t wait to give away all kinds of freebies: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!” (Is 55:1). Again in the Proverbs, He invites everyone to enjoy free food and drinks: “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!” (Proverbs 9:5).

If God wants to save us so bad, and His salvation is free and always there, waiting for us to receive whenever we want, then why are we worried about condemnation to hell? Everyone surely will be saved. Right? It seems almost too easy. But wait. Look what Zaachaeus had to do to receive Jesus’ free saving grace. He repented with sincerity and action. He did everything he could to make amends for his sins. Yes, God’s saving grace is free. But the recipient must have the urge to want to receive it. That urge, my friend, must come from a heart filled with repentance, which is what Jesus asked of us on embarking his public ministry of proclaiming the gospel of God: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mk 1:15).

Is repentance, true and sincere, in your heart? If yes, congratulations! Today salvation has come to your house.

Friday, October 7, 2016

送禮篇

親友們喜歡送禮。送禮的原意本來是美好的,代表著送禮者的一番心意。不幸地,這本來美好的行為,在當今社會常被濫用,演變下來,送禮很多時變得消費主義化,著重名牌和講究體面,或成了「禮尚往來亅和「不好意思」而不能不做的繁文縟節。

我也送禮。不過我送的禮常常不被收禮的人察覺;察覺到也可能不以為然,不認為這是禮;甚至根本上接收不到。這是甚麽禮,這麽奇怪?讓我舉例詳述。

最近兩位闊別多年的中學同窗遠道從香港來加探訪,我特別抽空與他們兩次作伴同遊,一次在溫哥華坐郵輪往返亞拉斯加,一次駕車往 Algonquin安省公園看秋色。其實我是個不善於旅遊,也不太喜歡旅遊的人,但得悉這麽多年來,他們在信仰上仍在摸索和尋求,我希望將天主送給我的福音的禮物轉送給他們。

這福音的禮物不是名牌也不體面,但價值連城!

它在商場裡購買不到,也不是有錢便能購買得到的。

轉送後,它不會失去;送禮者只管送,送的愈多,擁有的也更多。

禮物送出後,對方收不收到,連送禮者也不知道,只有天主聖神才知道。

這福音的禮物,多神奇啊!

衷心希望兩位老友都能收到我送出的禮物。若現在收不到,希望總有一天會收到。

不幸地,多數人窮一生歲月也收不到。為免送禮者氣餒,天主在聖經中以身作則,親自示範送禮,大派禮物,讓有意從事送禮工作的人,知道送禮不易,助他們做好準備工夫。

籍依撒意亞先知,祂告訴我們世人多數不珍惜這福音的禮物(在經文中比喻為眞正能止渴的水和可以果腹的豐美食物):「啊! 凡口渴的,請到水泉來! 那沒有錢的,也請來罷! 請來買不花錢,不索值的酒和奶吃!你們為什麼為那些不能充食的東西花錢,為那些不足果腹的東西浪費薪金呢﹖你們若細心聽我,你們就能吃豐美的食物,你們的心靈必因脂膏而喜悅。你們如側耳,走近我前來聽,你們必將獲得生命…。」(依55:1-3)

我為了要送禮給老朋友而飛去溫哥華和駕車往 Algonquin Park的做法,其實是效法天主。祂為了送禮,不惜大興土木,勞師動眾(經文中的房舍和石柱代表教會,牲畜美酒代表聖事,被派的使女代表傳福音者):「智慧建造了房舍,雕琢了七根石柱,宰殺了牲畜,配製了美酒,舖設了飯桌,派出自己的使女,在城市高處吶喊:『誰是無知的,請轉身到這裏來! 』她對愚鈍的人說:『你們來,吃我的食糧,飲我配製的酒!你們應放棄無知,好使你們得以生存,並在明智的道路上邁進。』」(箴言9:1-6) 天主送禮的對象是「無知」和「愚鈍」的人。但願老友們有謙卑美德,也看見自己在真理面前是「無知」和「愚鈍」的。

耶穌還告誡有志從事送禮者,世人會用各種藉口,不領受你的美意,甚至將你殺害:「耶穌又開口用比喻對他們說:『天國好比一個國王,為自己的兒子辦婚宴。他打發僕人去召被請的人來赴宴,他們卻不願意來。又派其他的僕人去,說:你們對被請的人說:看,我已預備好了我的盛宴,我的公牛和肥畜都宰殺了,一切都齊備了,你們來赴婚宴吧!他們卻不理:有的往自己的田裏去了, 有的作自己的生意去了;其餘的竟拿住他的僕人凌辱後殺死了。』」(瑪22:1-6)

在這裡,我誠意邀請讀者停止送名牌和講究體面的禮,也停止禮尚往來的繁文縟節。來!加入我們送福音的禮物的行列吧,這禮物眞的很神奇,是無價之寶!



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

親友的不諒解正是我們做福傳的動力!

當你在信仰上愈來愈投入的時侯,親友們對你是否愈來愈不明白呢?如經上所載,這本是正常的:

「我們所領受的,不是這世界的精神,而是出於天主的聖神,為使我們能明瞭天主所賜與我們的一切…屬血氣的人,不能領受天主聖神的事,因為他是愚妄;他也不能領悟…。亅 (格前2:12-14)

說世人「愚妄」,是指他們在屬神和真理的事情上愚妄;在世俗事情上,他們可能是非常聰明能幹的。所以當聖經呼籲世人要進入天主的屋宇,活在聖善中時,它稱他們為「無知的」和「愚鈍的」,要求他們從愚鈍無知進入「明智」:

「智慧建造了房舍…舖設了飯桌,派出自己的使女,在城市高處吶喊:『誰是無知的,請轉身到這裏來! 』她對愚鈍的人說:『你們來,吃我的食糧,飲我配製的酒!你們應放棄無知…並在明智的道路上邁進。』」(箴言9:1-6)

親友們對你愈來愈不明白,是因為你的信仰。它帶來的人生觀、道德標準、和處事方式往往使他們大感不惑。他們對你的不瞭解,會因他們自己對信仰的看法和立場而有異。舉例說:

對沒信仰的親友,你是不切實際和不正常的。他們問:「讀甚麽神學?能賺大錢嗎?」,「攪甚麽信仰講座或避靜?和親友交往或去旅遊不是更重要嗎?」,「怎麼放棄高薪厚職去傳福音這樣沒出息?」。

對有信仰但態度冷淡或傾向於與俗世同化的親友,你是保守和不合時宜的。他們問:「吃喝玩樂有何不可?正確的信仰應入世。」,「不可離婚?你還活在十九世紀?」,「難民帶給我們各種問題,包括恐怖主義,不是應全部拘捕,禁止入境和趕走嗎?」

對自己信仰很認真但不接受基督的親友,你是「霸道」和自以為是的。他們問:「真理人人有份,尋求真理者如盲人摸象,你的宗教怎能自稱擁有唯一真理、道路、生命?」,「有你講,無人講!」,「你崇洋!難道東方文化裡沒有讓人得救的真理和美善?」

在十字架上,耶穌含屈而終。如果我們所跟隨的主也不獲別人諒解,我們的命運不是也一樣嗎?那麽我們是否就此接受這悲哀的現實,坐以待斃?不!別人和親友的不明白,正是我們做福傳的動力!他們的迷惘正表示他們有需要領受福音!對他們,我們這些領受了福音的,是欠債者,因他們有權從我們得到他們應得的福音。難怪聖保祿心急如焚,要去羅馬傳教,因為「不但對希臘人,也對化外人,不但對有智慧的人,也對愚笨的人,我都是一個欠債者。所以,只要由得我,我也切願向你們在羅馬的人宣講福音。」(羅馬書1:14-15) 所以我們應捲起衫袖,更積極和更有愛心地為這些不明白我們的親友耐心講解。更重要地,在生活上做好自己,用行動傳福音,為主做生活的見證。

「不求他人的諒解,只求諒解他人。」聖方濟和平禱詞這句話,在我心裡迴響著,給我安慰和引導。直至死的一刻,主耶穌完全得不到世人諒解。事實上,在聖神降臨前,連他的至親和門徒也不完全明白他,甚至背棄他。但從起初,在萬有還未造成之前,他已決定了要諒解和寬恕所有人。讓我們都跟隨聖方濟,用他的方法見證福音:「不求他人的諒解,只求諒解他人。」

Thursday, September 1, 2016

一個鮮為人知的小片段讓你知道我為何支持《生命恩泉》

去年十二月,由於「慈悲禧年- 加拿大華人公教徒大會」的原故,我有幸以聯絡人身份,在大會首席講者韓大輝總主教留加期間,能與他緊密接觸。我與韓總主教不算熟識,但也不陌生。大會前五年,他在中華殉道聖人堂為慕道班導師舉辦暑期訓練課程時,我也是他的聯絡人。這次再度合作,彼此都倍感親切和自然。

韓總主教來加十二天的行程,活動繁多,行程的高峯當然是慈悲禧年大會。但給我留下最深刻印象的,不是大會當日「千」人空巷的場面,也不是大會後喜氣洋洋的聯歡晚宴。這次韓總主教來加之行結束至今,在我腦際返復縈迴的,是一個很少人知道和留意的小片段。

那是一個星期三的中午,韓總主教與多倫多教區紅衣主教哥連斯(Cardinal Thomas Collins) 剛會面完畢,便立即趕往《生命恩泉》和十多位義工和員工相聚。韓總主教對《生命恩泉》並不熟識,最初連名字也讀錯。不過,那天的分享,明顯地深深感動了他,讓他清楚看見,在那寒風凜冽的星期三的中午,與他共席相聚的是一羣被天主特別召叫,為福傳而心火千丈的人。

各人遂一介紹和分享後,原定午飯時間已過了個多鐘。我的時間特別無彈性,肚子咕咕作響,但韓總主教卻聽得趣味盎然,不願離開。最後還氣定神閒地分享他自己的召叫和在梵蒂岡「做官」的趣事。對於《生命恩泉》和我們的分享,韓總主教的結語使我不敢相信自己有沒有聽錯。(那天匆忙也忘了配帶助聽器!) 他說他深信《生命恩泉》是天主的禮物,是特別賜給海外華人的、有效的福傳平台。他很感謝我們這羣為福傳而犧牲那麽多的義工和員工,我們的分享讓他很感動,他「非常仰慕和尊敬」我們為天主所做的工作。

做福傳事奉工作,無論個人的或透過《生命恩泉》的,都非常艱鉅,有時也很有孤單寂寞的感覺。很多時都靠著聖方濟各「寧安慰人,不圖人安慰;寧了解人,不求人了解」的精神,勉力支撐下去。韓總主教的鼓勵,其功效就像老人家打完B2特效強力針一般,在千人大會前三天,讓我們「醒神」,各自回返工作崗位,為三天後即將來臨的重大挑戰,做好準備工夫。

小小一個片段,也解釋了我為甚麼支持《生命恩泉》。若您也有同感,若您也覺得《生命恩泉》這福傳平台,和它一羣為福傳而忘我地工作的義工和員工值得支持,希望您會慷慨捐款支持我們一年一度的豐業銀行多倫多湖濱馬拉松慈善籌款步行!

捐款支持 Edmond Lo 參加 豐業銀行多倫多湖濱馬拉松為生命恩泉籌款步行

主佑各位!

(豐業銀行多倫多湖濱馬拉松籌款步行將於本年十月十六日舉行,無論加拿大或海外善長人翁,都可以用上列網頁,在舉行日期前捐款。謝謝!)

圖片說明:由左至右(1)機場歡迎。(2)星期三中午的分享。(3)大會現場。


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

用信德的眼光,從有形可見的事物中,看見無形和不可見的事物

「你們原來並不是走近了那可觸摸的山,那裏有烈火、濃雲、黑暗、暴風、號筒的響聲以及說話的聲音,當時那些聽見的人,都懇求天主不要再給他們說話,因為他們承擔不起所吩咐的事:『即使是一隻走獸觸摸了這山,也應用石頭砸死;』並且所顯現的是這麼可怕,連梅瑟也說:『我很是恐慌戰憟。』然而你們卻接近了熙雍山和永生天主的城,天上的耶路撒冷,接近了千萬天使的盛會,和那些已被登錄在天上的首生者的集會,接近了審判眾人的天主,接近 了已獲得成全的義人的靈魂,接近了新約的中保耶穌,以及衪所灑的血:這血比亞伯爾的血說話說的更好。」(希12:18-24)

上列經文獨特的地方,在於作者能夠從以色列的一個歷史片段中, 看見那震撼人靈的,不可見而又最真實的景象。讓我詳加說明。

當尊威全能的天主顯現給我們這些卑微和可朽壞的人的時候,祂能使人驚怕得魂不附體。希伯來人書的作者根據出谷紀第十九章和申命紀第四章的記載,述及以色列人在西乃山經驗到天主雅威在烈火,濃雲,號角的響聲中降到山上 (希 12:18; 出19:16-20;申4:11) 。 那可怕的情景甚至連梅瑟也恐慌戰慄。(希 12:21)

希伯來人書的作者努力地要讓他的讀者明白,以色列人在西乃山上的經歷,發生在一個特別的禮儀之地,也可以說是一個「特別的祭壇」,一個「可觸摸的」(18 節)和有形可見的祭壇。原來這經歷竟能奧妙地讓我們窺見天堂的聖殿,即那不能觸摸的,不能看見的天上神聖的聖殿和祭壇。是那些人在慶祝這天上的盛會呢?是「千萬天使」,「已登記在天上的首生者」,「已被成全的正義者」,「審判眾人的天主」和「新約的中保耶穌」。他們在天主和聖子都臨在的盛會裡做甚麼?他們在喜樂地欽崇天主。

這兩個地方,雖然一個在人間,一個在天上,一個看得見,一個看不見,但卻奧妙地緊密相連: 西乃山在指向著天上的聖殿,西乃山的禮儀在天上的禮儀中達到了高峯。希伯來人書的作者藉著信德的目光,讓此奇景盡入眼簾!從西乃山,他看到了象徵着天上耶路撒冷的熙雍山(「你們卻是走近熙雍山和永生天主的城,天上的耶路撒冷」(22節)) ; 從以色列,他看到了勝利的教會,因為以色列本來就是那戰爭中的教會不可或缺的一部份。在以色列的中保梅瑟身上,他看見了「新約的中保耶穌」。最重要的是,在卑微和可朽壞的人的恐懼中,特別是在西乃山上被嚇得半死的以色列人的驚怕中,他看見了天上欽崇天主的喜樂。

希伯來人書的作者從現在中看到將來;從平凡中看到卓越;從可見的事物中看到不可見的事物;從人間俗世中看到超凡脫俗、天上神聖的一切;因為他以信德的目光細察事物 - 「信德是所希望之事的擔保,是未見之事的確證」。(11:1) 他所看見發生在西乃山上的事物,我們同樣地在彌撒聖祭禮儀中也要看見,因為在彌撒中,我們已身處天堂!讓我們以天主教教理其中震撼性的一則來為這反思作總結(留意當中教導與剛論述的經文多麽相似):

「在人間的禮儀中,我們預嘗並參與那在天上聖城耶路撒冷所舉行的禮儀,我們以朝聖者的身分向那裡邁進,那裡有基督坐於天主的右邊,作為聖所及真會幕的臣僕;我們偕同天朝全體軍旅,向上主歡唱光榮的讚歌 …。」《天主教教理 1090》

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

With the Eyes of Faith We See the Invisible In the Visible

You have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them, for they could not bear to hear the command: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned." Indeed, so fearful was the spectacle that Moses said, "I am terrified and trembling." No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:18-24)

What’s really remarkable about this Hebrews passage is the author’s ability to see the invisible and awe-inspiring reality underlying a setting that many people see as just another chapter of Israel’s history. Let me explain.

God, who is majestic and omnipotent, can be frightening when He appears to us lowly mortals, so we learn from the passage. Referring to Israel’s experience at Mount Sinai as recorded in Exodus 19 and Deuteronomy 4, the author of Hebrews recalls the terrifying scene of epiphany when Yahweh descended upon the mountain with a dramatic display of fire and smoke and blaring trumpets (Heb 12:18; Ex 19:16-20; Deut 4:11) - a scene that made even Moses tremble (Heb 12:21).

The author of Hebrews takes great pains to convince his readers that what Israel experienced at Mt. Sinai, a special place of liturgy, or “a special altar” if you will, which “could be touched” (v.18) or seen, mysteriously gives us a glimpse into the sacred sanctuary of heaven – the heavenly altar - that cannot be touched or seen. Who are the people celebrating this celestial liturgy of heaven? “Countless angels”, “the firstborn enrolled in heaven”, “the spirits of the just made perfect”, “God the judge of all”, and Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” (vv. 22-24). What are they doing up there in the presence of God and His Son? Worshiping with great joy.

The two places, one earthly and the other heavenly, one visible the other invisible, are somehow closely intertwined – Mt. Sinai pointing to the sacred sanctuary of heaven, the Mt. Sinai liturgy culminating in the heavenly liturgy. And the author of Hebrews, with his eyes of faith, sees it! He sees Mt. Zion, which symbolizes the heavenly Jerusalem (“you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (v. 22)), in Mt. Sinai. He sees the Church Triumphant in Israel, an integral part of the Church Militant. He sees “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant”, in Moses, the mediator of Israel (v. 24). Above all, he sees the joy of heavenly worship in the fear that the lowly mortals, particularly the Israelites on Mt. Sinai, exhibit on seeing God.

The author of Hebrews sees the future in the present, the invisible underlying the visible, the sacred through the earthly, the extraordinary out of the ordinary because he sees through the eyes of faith – faith which “is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (11:1). What he sees as happening at Mt. Sinai, we also need to see as happening in the Mass liturgy because at Mass, we are already in heaven! Let’s conclude this reflection with an astounding statement extracted from the Catechism which bears much resemblance to the Hebrews passage that is being discussed:

In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord…(CCC 1090).

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Young People: Don't Just Concentrate on Your Wedding Day and Forget the Life-Long Commitment You Are About to Enter Into

Short-term preparations for marriage tend to be concentrated on invitations, clothes, the party and any number of other details that tend to drain not only the budget but energy and joy as well. The spouses come to the wedding ceremony exhausted and harried, rather than focused and ready for the great step that they are about to take. The same kind of preoccupation with a big celebration also affects certain de facto unions; because of the expenses involved...Here let me say a word to fiancés. Have the courage to be different. Don’t let yourselves get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty appearances (Amoris Laetitia, n. 212).

Those who are prepared to read Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia carefully will be pleasantly surprised to discover some of the useful and pragmatic ideas that the Holy Father often comes up with. They are not only innovative and daring, but also very much in line with traditional Church values.

If you are about my age, you may find yourself inundated with wedding invitations involving the younger generation of family members and friends. Some of these weddings can be extremely lavish. But what bothers me the most is not so much the cost involved but the time required of me. Sometimes it may take a whole day to join some of these celebrations (morning Mass, hanging around after Mass just to pass the time because the locations of the venues are such that the guests really can't go anywhere, then evening banquet). It gets worse when for some reason the organizers decide to let the banquet process drag out for as long as possible so that the guests really can't leave until well after 11:30 p.m. All the while throughout the duration of a very long evening, you are forced to listen to so-called "professional MCs" whom the married couple has paid an astronomical amount to hire. As far as I am concerned, the manner they speak and conduct themselves is as annoying as some of the radio DJs that I've always shunned.

Instead of using all the resources and energy to deal with the peripheral issues, young couples preparing to get married are challenged by the Holy Father to opt "for a more modest and simple celebration in which love takes precedence over everything else" (n. 212). They "should be encouraged to make the liturgical celebration a profound personal experience and to appreciate the meaning of each of its signs". Quoting St. John Paul II, the Holy Father's exhortation is for all marrying couples to be aware that "[t]he body, created with a God-given meaning, 'becomes the language of the ministers of the sacrament, aware that in the conjugal pact there is expressed and realized the mystery that has its origin in God himself'" (n. 213). The Holy Father hits the nail right on the head when he points out that “many [young people] concentrate on their wedding day and forget the life-long commitment they are about to enter into” (n. 215).

Young people, don't get me wrong, I'm honored to receive your wedding invitation. But invite me, or any guest for that matter, only if you want my presence on the day you enter the life-long commitment to live out in your bodies the sacred mystery of the one-flesh union of Christ and the Church. If your invitation is serious and meaningful, you need to show me that before getting married you've invested the time needed to understand this "great mystery" that made St. Paul awestruck (Ephesians 5:32), the meaning of the liturgy that you invite me to participate in and, most of all, the significance of the marriage vow that you invite me to hear when you utter it so affectionately and determinedly to your future spouse. Professional MCs, lavish meals, and top-notch banquet halls? Well, they are....peripherals.

Remember, marriage is not just "a single moment that then becomes a part of the past and its memories". Rather, married couples use their bodies to speak an “uninterrupted continuity of liturgical language”. The liturgy of matrimony in a way doesn't end when the wedding ceremony is finsihed because “conjugal life becomes in a certain sense liturgical” (n.215). This liturgical language is not a "careless whisper" (George Michael). It is a language of love from time immemorial: a language that Adam spoke on his first encounter with Eve - "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman' (Genesis 2:23); a language that turned into a full-blown lovers' concerto in the Song of Songs; a language that was brought to its consummating outro on the Cross, the marriage bed of Christ and the Church, where the New Adam uttered in his very last breath the final words of love: "It is finished!" (John 19:30).

Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016-2017年度《慕道再慕道》一年課程招生

為鼓勵更多新領洗者和教友進一步認識天主教信仰和聖經,2016-2017年度的《慕道再慕道》,將重新編排,讓參加者在一年內完成全部課程。全新一年課程由2016年九月九日起至2017年六月十六日止,每月第二及第三個星期五晚上7:45-9:45在聖鮑斯高禮堂用粵語舉行。講者Edmond Lo (多大神學碩仕) 按教會傳統和教導,為參加者解釋天主教教理和分享聖經的喜樂 。課程特別針對一般人對天主教信仰的誤解或誣告,如「迷信聖母」、「拜偶像」、「彌撒禮儀繁冗,充滿迷信」、「不可離婚和反對避孕的教導太保守」等,讓教友正確明白教會的教導。《慕道再慕道》歷來廣受教友歡迎,並有影碟發行、網上錄音和網頁。請把握良機,從速報名。

可網上報名:2016-17 慕道再慕道網上報名
或往中華殉道聖人堂諮詢處登記。詳情請參考宣傳海報及章程。

請幫助宣傳,介紹親友們參加。謝謝!



課程時間表:

1 09/09/16 對天主的渴求
2 10/14/16 天主給人類的啟示
3 10/21/16 論聖經,看其他宗教
4 11/11/16 我信全能者天父,天地萬物的創造者(一)
5 11/18/16 我信全能者天父,天地萬物的創造者(二)
6 12/09/16 天主的選民:以色列的聖祖
7 12/16/16 天主的選民:梅瑟和律法
8 01/13/17 天主的選民:從若蘇厄到耶穌基督
9 01/20/17 我信耶穌,天主的獨生子(論聖母上)
10 02/10/17 我信耶穌,天主的獨生子(論聖母下)
11 02/17/17 耶穌的言行(二):真福八端,愛的誡命
12 03/09/17 耶穌蒙難被釘十字架
13 03/16/17 耶穌下降陰府,復活升天,要光榮再來,審判生者死者
14 04/06/17 我信聖神
15 04/21/17 我信聖而公教會(一)
16 05/12/17 我信聖而公教會(二)
17 05/19/17 彌撒聖祭
18 06/09/17 聖事(一)
19 06/16/17 聖事(二)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Who Is the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37?

The divine Author of the Bible uses allegory to help the reader to “acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ”, according to the Catechism (CCC 117). As a result, when we read the Bible, don’t lose sight of the allegorical meanings that many of its stories carry – meanings that point us directly or indirectly to Christ himself.

How do we understand the Good Samaritan story (Luke 10:25-37) allegorically? What is its significance in Christ? According to Pope Benedict XVI, the answers to these questions can be obtained by understanding the story in the following manner (see Jesus of Nazareth – From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, pp. 200-201):

• "A man fell victim to robbers” (v. 30) – “Man” is to be understood as Adam or man in general; in other words, “humanity”. “Robbers” refers to the force of evil.
• “They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead” (v.30) – A picture of humanity in tatters, bereft of grace and wounded by sin. What we have is a fallen human nature.
• “Priest” and “Levite” (vv. 31-32) symbolize history, culture, and religion. None of them are the ultimate solution to humanity’s problem.
• The “Samaritan traveler” (v. 33) was distant and foreign to the man. Since the victim was a Jew, the Samaritan traveler was foreign to him. In fact, Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. The Samaritan traveler refers to Jesus, who is distant and foreign to us because he is transcendent, holy and divine.
• “He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them” (v.34) – Jesus heals our wounded human nature using the Sacraments (oil and wine).
• “Took him to an inn and cared for him” (v. 34) – Jesus instituted the Church (inn) to care for man.

The theme of this allegory, as it relates to Christ, is love: man in general is wounded (human nature is wounded due to sin); every one of us is in need of redemption which we will receive from Jesus (the Samaritan in the story); we should love our neighbors the way the Good Samaritan loved the victim, helping the victim generously even though he was his enemy (because the victim was a Jew). The story also confirms the importance of the Church and the Sacraments (“inn” and “oil and wine” in the story), both of which were indispensable in the healing of the victim.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

如何用信德面對痛苦

這麽多年來,我在慕道班和教會裏最常遇上的問題是甚麽?如何證實神的存在?為何不可離婚?那個宗教擁有全盤真理?天主教是否耶穌建立的教會?教友為甚麼需要聖事? 都不是!這些都是很普遍也很重要的信仰問題,但不是慕道者和教友最常問的問題。我最常遇上的問題是:為甚麼有痛苦和如何面對。

有一個人不幸患了舌癌,做了手術和療程後多年,現在癌病竟又再復發。他極度情緒低落,無勇氣面對再一次的治療,因為這次的手術和療程將會非常痛苦和危險,還要面對從此不能說話和不能吞食的不便;就算手術成功,餘下歲月恐怕無多。他沒信仰,痛苦多番煎熬使他感到迷惘。心想:若天主真的存在,而祂又是慈悲美善的,祂為何容許世間充滿苦楚和邪惡?祂又為何無情地作弄人?

基於聖經,也基於教會在聖傳內按聖經所訂定的教導,天主教徒都相信:全能美善的天主不但存在而且眷顧一切,包括每一個人最微小和瑣碎的事情。祂將有關自己和人生的奧義啓示了給我們;祂啓示的真理已記錄在聖經中和存留在教會內。

那麽全能美善,慈悲愛人的天主為甚麼讓人類活在痛苦中?為甚麼妄顧人在苦難和失望中的呼號?這是個非常基本而又重要的問題,所以聖經一開始便先解答了它。按聖經,人在萬物中最尊貴自由,但卻誤用自由背離天主,因而身陷罪和痛苦的羅網中,不能自拔。信耶穌(他是天主) 接受他的救贖,是人擺脫罪和痛苦的羅網的唯一途徑。

那麽信耶穌的人是否永遠健康幸福?是的,但不是在這敗壞了的塵世。在來世,信主的人因著他的救恩,要復活並享永生和永遠福樂。

那麽信主的人在今世面對痛苦時當怎麼辦?簡單來說,正確面對的方法應包括以下原則:

(一) 信德 - 深信一切痛苦是這敗壞的世界不能避免的現象,所有人都活在它的枷鎖中。但這現象是過渡性的,「在過程中」(in statu viae)的受造界都在邁向最終的完美(教理 302)。藉主耶穌的救恩,痛苦和死亡的枷鎖已解除;在天主永恆的國度裡,痛苦和死亡再不能傷害我們。在那裡,我們可以歡欣地跟隨聖保祿高唱:「死亡! 你的勝利在哪裡﹖死亡! 你的刺在哪裡﹖」(格前15:55)

(二) 望德 - 保持希望,因為全能美善的天主能奧妙地從惡中引發出善 (教理 311)。基督的苦難看似是門徒們希望的全盤幻滅,但是二仟年的歷史證實耶穌的教導和有關他的預言一句也不落空。

(三) 愛德 - 要像主耶穌一樣,接納和勇於承担痛苦甚至死亡,明白我們都因主耶穌而成了司祭,我們的接納和承担是一份愛,是無私的自我獻出,是十字架的祭獻,有助救恩廣傳,讓人因我們(在痛苦中的人)而受惠。於是,本來是軟弱的,卻成了剛強的。(參閱《與未信主的好友談司祭職》。)

就像主「的德能在軟弱中才全顯出來」,跟隨主的人也願意「在困苦中,因為我幾時軟弱,正是我有能力的時候」(格後12:9,10)。最後,讓我們用教宗聖若望保祿二世的說話結束這有關痛苦的反思:

「人應將困苦看成一個特别召叫,用信德和忍耐去面對,這是一個讓人更深切地去愛的機會。」(譯自七九年九月廿九日都帕林講詞。)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia

I still haven't read Amoris Laetitia, but I will - my summer is all set because of this book.

Many concerns, and just as many compliments from the media at large, have been expressed about Pope Francis because of this book. Obviously to the Catholic faithful who care about Church orthodoxy, the compliments are in and of themselves a justification for their concerns.

I long to read Amoris Laetitia to really find out whether the concerns are legit. But if my previous experiences of reading Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium and Misericordiae Vultus) are any indications, I think my summer reading probably will be a beneficial and enjoyable one. The 9-minute video below from Bishop Barron, whose remarkable ability to explain profound theological concepts using eloquent but understandable language that makes his audience feel right at home has won him many admirers the world over, gave me added assurance that this summer's reading project is something to look forward to.

Bishop Baron on Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia

Friday, May 20, 2016

信德助人看見歷史是天主的詩篇

說歷史是天主的詩篇(見前文),是天主的手筆,意味著整個人類歷史都在天主眷顧和掌握之中。(但這說法不代表預定論 - Predeterminism。)這道理正是聖經最後一本書《默示錄》的主旨。默示錄是一本奇妙和引人入勝的寶書,由開始至完結都在描述著天上聖祭的展開。在天上聖祭展開的同時,地上的邪惡卻層出不窮地出現(殉道者的喊冤、不公義、饑荒、地震、天災、戰爭、海上和地上怪獸所象徵的暴政等)。它的訊息是:無論人類歷史上充滿了多少不公義與痛苦,天主仍眷顧一切,掌握一切,最後正義會戰勝邪惡,天人結合(十九章的羔羊婚宴,即基督與教會的完滿結合),新天新地出現。

聖經是天主直接給人啟示人生真理的書。由於天主是人的父親(所以耶穌教人祈禱,一開始便專稱天主為「天父」),祂和我們是一家人,所以聖經也被看作天父親切地寫給祂的家人的家書。為了讓我們看見家書的作者為神的本領,讓我們信奉祂,天主使用獨一無二的預象法 (typology)來寫作。這預象法就是我在前文已論述過的。除了前文所用默基瑟德 (Melchizedek) 的例子外,我在此再補充三個簡單些的聖經例案:

(1) 亞巴郎祭子的有關形象巧妙地預告著耶穌基督的十字聖祭:兩聖經片段都涉及一位父親引領著一位服從父親的獨生子,背著樹木,上山做祭獻(同是摩尼亞山即耶路撒冷所在),前片段中,祭獻被終止,山羊替代獨生子做祭品;後片段中,獨生子耶穌親自完成贖罪祭,使全人得救。

(2) 羅厄方舟和洪水有關形象巧妙地預告著教會和聖洗:水的清洗使罪惡的大地煥然一新,預告著聖洗聖事滌除人罪,帶來新的生命;方舟載渡創造物進入洪水冲洗後的新天地,代表著人在教會內,藉她的牧放和餵養而進天鄉。

(3) 以色列人四十年曠野飄流,有關形象巧妙地預告著人類在塵世飄流的日子,若人堅持信從天主,最終必像以色列人般,能進入流奶流蜜的福地即天國。

我深愛歷史,也愛哲學和文學。但這麽多年後,我找到了一本寶書,它不但蘊藏著我深愛的歷史、哲學、和文學的一切,而且遠遠超越和比它們優越。這本書叫聖經。難怪聖熱羅尼莫 (St. Jerome) 在論及這寶書時這樣說:「能夠置身這些事物中,細心默想,縱使不再認識其它事情,不再尋求其它事情,感覺上這不就是在地上預先品嘗了天國之樂嗎?」願您也因聖經而飽嘗天國之樂!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

History Is Divine Poetry

“An inexhaustible treasury of heavenly doctrine” – St. John Chrysostom on the sacred Scripture (S. Chrys. in Gen. Hom. xx, 2). Of the numerous jewels and gems that I discovered so joyfully over the years in the inexhaustible treasury of the sacred Scripture, the Divine Author’s ability to write typologically is one that continues to stir in me the deepest awe and reverence.

Typology, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what He accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of His incarnate Son” (CCC 128).

History doesn’t just happen. God uses history to reveal important truths about Himself to us, especially truths about Jesus, our Savior. He uses created things (historical figures, peoples, events, institutions, other signs and images) to prefigure and foretell uncreated realities that are eternal and invisible (heaven, salvation, everlasting life, purification of sin, Jesus’ kingship, etc.) Dr. Scott Hahn, a world-renowned Catholic scriptural scholar, a mentor and guardian that God sent to help me and thousands of other people to understand the Bible, observes that history doesn’t just repeat itself, it rhymes because it is divine poetry (see S. Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, p.22).

In the Mass readings of Sunday, May 29, 2016, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we hear how wonderfully God’s divine poetry rhymes using two important biblical figures: Melchizedek, an Old Covenant person born more than 1800 years before Jesus, and our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Melchizedek was the first priestly figure to appear in the Bible who was also a king, a righteous person, and a man of peace (Gn 14:18, Hebrews 7:2). Like Jesus the eternal High Priest (cf. Hebrews 8:1-2) who instituted the Holy Eucharist in the last supper using bread and wine and whom he prefigured, Melchizedek brought with him “bread and wine” to bless Abram.

Like Christ the King, whose Heavenly Kingdom as foretold by Daniel prevailed over all earthly kingdoms (cf. Daniel 2:31-45), whom Pilate unknowingly labelled “king of the Jews” (John 19:19-22), and who was confirmed as “Lord of lords and King of kings” in John’s apocalyptic vision (Revelation 17:14), Melchizedek was a royal figure - the king of Salem, an ancient city which eventually became Jerusalem. Melchizedek, king of Salem, was a prefiguration of Jesus, King of the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Like Jesus, the righteous man who suffered for us, the unrighteous (cf. 1 Peter 3:18), Melchizedek was a righteous man - the “righteous king” of Salem (Hebrews 7:2).

“Salem” means “peace”. Like Jesus, the “Prince of Peace”, Melchizedek as king of Salem was the “king of peace” (Hebrews 7:2).

History is divine poetry. It doesn’t just repeat itself, it rhymes.

I love reading. I have studied history and fictions, arts and sciences. I have benefited much from the wisdom of scholars, poets, philosophers, politicians, and founders of religions. But of all the books that I read, there has never been one that resembles even remotely the inexplicable power of the Bible – an amazing book whose Author demonstrated a knowledge that transcended time and space, a plot of perfect coherence, and a mysterious but powerful writing skill that used ancient, historical persons, signs and images to foretell perfectly the most important historical person ever born to humanity – Jesus, our Lord. The knowledge and skill prove to me beyond the shadow of a doubt the divinity of the Author of the Bible.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bread Turning Into Flesh and Blood - a Miracle Involving Pope Francis

Many of you have attended, or have been attending, my church programs. Due to my personal interest in the Scriptures and Catholicism, the approach I use in explaining the Catholic faith is usually intellectual and theological in nature, always referring back to the Scriptures and magisterial teachings to support my point of view. I use the same approach even when Marian topics are discussed, never venturing into Fatima, Lourdes, and other well-known Marian apparitions; not because I don't believe them but because my personal repertoire in experiencing miracles and supernatural phenomenons is very limited.

Like many of you, I have seen not a few videos, photos, and articles about Eucharistic miracles. In most cases, the consecrated host inexplicably turned into human flesh and blood. (For non-Catholic friends, based on scriptural teachings and the Catholic tradition, the Catholics believe that when the bread - otherwise referred to as the "host" - is consecrated or blessed by the priest in the Mass, it changes into the flesh and blood of Christ or "the body of Christ" - a supernatural change that is called "transubstantiation".) But I find this one involving our current Pope really intriguing. Dr. Ricardo Castanon, a staunch atheist in his whole life, was asked by Pope Francis, who was at the time the auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, to do a scientific lab test on the host-turned bloody substance. The miracle was so convincing and had had such a profound impact on Dr. Castanon that he subsequently converted to become a Catholic.

Watch video on this Eucharistic miracle involving Pope Francis.

I thought I should share this miracle with my contacts, which is not something I usually do. Hope it would inspire you the way it inspired me. At the same time let's keep in mind that while God sometimes gives us miracles to strengthen our faith, as Christians what sustains us and keeps us going is first and foremost our faith in Christ, "For Jews demand signs (miracles) and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (John 6:53-56)

Monday, April 4, 2016

April Snow

April snow...

Uninvited and unapologetic, she arrives.
Not to defend or explain herself she decides.
Knowing her impromptu appearance will be but brief,
She puts on display her full beauty.

April snow...

Having reigned supreme since November,
Now contented with the last tribute from this lone admirer,
Yield to the flirtation of Spring she must,
But not before a last show of nature's true splendor.

April snow...

Refreshing and wet is her lover's kiss,
Caressing me as I slowly tread.
One season defines not our lifelong love;
Return she will in austerity from the north above.

Pictures taken this morning at Toogood Pond. The snow turned out to be quite a blizzard!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

耶穌是天主嗎?

「我主! 我天主! 」(若20:28) - 多默在基督復活後向他顯現時所發出的驚嘆,不過是寥寥數字, 卻成了歷久常新的聖經名句。

在希臘文所翻譯的舊約聖經裡,“KYRIOS” -「上主」- 是指「雅威」(即以色列的神)的名稱(天主教教理446)。換句話說,多默見到復活的耶穌時的驚呼,是他對耶穌的天主性的肯定。類似的肯定還可以在其他新約聖經章節中找到,例如: 斐理伯書 2:11。

關於耶穌天主性的聖經憑證, 在新約和舊約聖經中, 有無數直接或間接的例子。除了若20:28經文中多默對耶穌天主性的肯定之外,也應列舉以下的聖經章節:

• 若望福音10:30-36 猶太人指控耶穌褻瀆,因為他們相信祂自稱是天主。
• 哥羅森書2:9 - 「因為是在基督內,真實地住有整個圓滿的天主性...... 」
• 依撒意亞書7:14對厄瑪奴耳的預言。瑪竇認為耶穌實現了這個預言(參考瑪竇1:23),換言之,耶穌就是厄瑪奴耳或「天主與我們同在。」
• 依撒意亞書9:5 - 「因為有一個嬰孩為我們誕生了,有一個兒子賜給了我們;他肩上擔負著王權,他的名子要稱為神奇的謀士、強有力的天主、永遠之父、和平之王。」
• 在舊約很多經文都預言天主會親自來拯救祂的子民,當中包括了厄則克爾34:11,依撒意亞 40:9-11,和59:16-17。身為天主的耶穌,的確親自來到世上拯救我們。

透過幾次大公會議, 包括了尼西亞(公元325),厄弗所(公元431),加采東(公元451),和君士坦丁堡(公元553),教會確認耶穌是真天主, 又是真人, 這兩者是不可分割的。

為什麼天主聖父為了拯救我們,有必要差遣是天主身份的聖子呢?為什麼祂不乾脆派遣天使, 又或許一些賢者, 例如亞巴郎或梅瑟?這是因為罪惡使天主和人之間存在著巨大的鴻溝;没任何受造物(包括天使和任何賢者)有資格或能力去填補這鴻溝,只有身為天主的耶穌才能將人和天主再次銜接上。身為天主聖子,祂同時具有人性和天主性,能成為「在天主與人之間的」唯一中保(弟前2:5)。

沒有人能比聖亞大納削 (Athanasius) 對這個重要的教義闡釋得更好。當時他為了對抗異端亞略主義(Arianism)對耶穌的天主性的質疑,他說,「天主子成了人子,好使人子們能成為天主子。」留意天主子/人子(即耶穌)使人子們(即世人)成為天主子的奧妙關係。難怪天主經開始時,耶穌要我們尊稱天主為「天父」;因著主耶穌,我們真的成了天主的子女(cf. 若一3:1)!祂真的是我們的大父!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

福傳道上

「你們在主內應當常常喜樂,我再說:你們應當喜樂!」(斐4:4)

斐理伯人書是保祿在羅馬監獄中所寫的書信。古羅馬的監獄與今天我們在電視中常見的監獄完全是兩回事,獄中環境惡劣和危險,囚犯們過渡著非人生活,隨時性命難保。在如此艱辛和惡劣的境況中,保祿卻偏偏寫成了這喜樂平安的作品。為甚麼呢?

其實,基督徒心裡的喜樂平安,與世人所追尋的喜樂平安,完全是兩回事。基督徒的喜樂平安是真正的喜樂平安,一旦得到,是永遠不會失去的。所以保祿在惡劣的羅馬監獄中,心裡仍存喜樂,也提醒斐理伯城信徒要常常喜樂。

基督徒心裡的喜樂也是感染性的,所以在福傳道上,我常遇上福傳良伴,大家懷著同樣喜樂的心情,一起效法保祿,將自己生命的每一分、每一秒,和生活上的每一點、每一滴,都像祭酒般獻上,為光榮天主而傾流淨盡(cf.弟後4:6)。郭詠觀醫生(Dr. Jason Kwok)就是我在福傳道上遇上的一位良伴。他和我相遇時擦出的一點火花,或者也算是在基督的愛內綻放的異采。這異采記述在《生命恩泉》最近推出的兩輯專訪中。願天主賜給郭醫生和我在主內的喜樂與平安,藉《生命恩泉》的製作,感染性地傳給你們!

(以下是郭詠觀醫生的分享,《浪子回頭上/下集》,每集大概26分鐘。)

浪子回頭上集

浪子回頭下集

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

山在聖經裡所象徵的意義

生於香港荃灣的我,自小喜愛觀看多霧的大帽山。它像一個張開雙臂的巨人, 熊抱著我們的鄉村小鎮。若能登山瞭望, 遠看圍繞山腳下的市鎮, 田野, 港口, 附近的島嶼和遠處的海洋, 感覺是怎樣的呢?若可以放下繁重的學校功課到山上的樹林任意闖蕩, 這是多麼稱心如意的快事啊!山頂常年被雲霧遮蓋, 低垂的雲層底下究竟隱藏著甚麼?天主是不是就住在那裡?

這就是當年的我, 一個小男孩, 坐在荃灣官立小學教室裡,望著窗外聳立的大帽山, 所作的白日夢......。

山在聖經裡是一個特殊的地方,每一個認真的聖經讀者,都不能忽略它在聖經裡所象徵的意義:山,是一個讓人心靈提升的地方; 山,能讓人從生活的重擔獲得釋放; 山,雄奇高峻,讓人看得更廣,望得更遠; 山,甚至讓人超凡入聖,與造物者結伴同遊。

正因為這樣,耶穌一生很多重要時刻, 都發生在山上:魔鬼的試探,山中聖訓,耶穌顯聖容,祂在橄欖山上的山園祈禱,十字架的苦難和聖死,和祂最後從山上升天。

轉看舊約經文,山的啓示在舊約裡同樣豐富:摩黎雅山是亞巴郎獻依撒格的地點,後來撒羅滿王亦在此興建耶路撒冷聖殿;在西乃山上,天主頒下十誡並和以色列人結立盟約; 在曷勒布山上,天主在「暴風大作」, 「裂山碎石」, 「烈火」和「輕微細弱的風聲」中向先知厄里亞顯露了自己(列王紀上19:11-12)。

在聖經中,遙遠和連綿起伏的山,卻成了天主和人相近之地;山勢縱然峻峭,遙不可及,當中卻有唾手可得的天主聖言和律法;青山縱然隱蔽重疊,難於尋覓,在山的至聖至高之處, 真誠尋找天主的人卻要看見天主的面容。

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mountain Symbolism in the Bible

Born a resident of Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, I grew up admiring the Tai Mo Shan, which held our small rural town in its broad embrace like a giant. What is it like to stand atop the mountain and take in the panoramic view of the low-lying town, its farmlands, its harbor, the nearby islands and the ocean beyond? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to let go of the burdens of school work and roam wild in the woods of the mountain? What’s hidden underneath the clouds that cover its summit all year round? Does God live there?

Those were my daydreams, a rural town boy sitting in the classroom of Tsuen Wan Government Primary School, looking out its windows to the awe-inspiring Tai Mo Shan….

The mountain is a special place in the Bible. No serious reader can afford to overlook the significance of mountain symbolism in the Bible: it’s a place of ascent; it’s a liberation from the burden of life; its majestic height enables us to see wider and farther; it connects us to the Sacred and Divine and puts us in touch with the Creator.

It is, therefore, no coincidence that so many important moments of Jesus’ life took place in the setting of the mountain: the temptation, the Sermon on the Mount, the Transfiguration, his agony on Mount Olive, the Crucifixion, and his Ascension.

Looking further into the Old Testament, there were the Old Testament mountains of revelation: Mount Moriah, where Abraham sacrificed Isaac and later King Solomon built the Jerusalem Temple; Mount Sinai where the Decalogue was proclaimed to, and a covenant made with, Israel; Mount Horeb, where God revealed Himself to the prophet Elijah following “strong and heavy wind”, “an earthquake”, “fire” and “a tiny whispering sound” (1Kings 19:11-12).

The mountains of the Bible were remote and yet they formed the backdrops for the close encounters between God and men; unreachable and yet they comprised the settings in which God’s words and ordinances were made within human reach; hidden and hard to find and yet it’s in their lofty heights and sacred spaces that God revealed Himself to those who sought Him.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

迪士尼樂園的美夢

「是美國在政治、歷史、和藝術上希望達到的永恆和完美的王國」、「活現著消費者想成為一個比自己更大的身份的一部份的心態」、「美化了的美國歷史」、「是福地」、「是樂土」、「美善永遠得勝,邪惡永遠失敗」 – 大學教授珍尼花波特用上述詞句形容迪士尼樂園,說它成功之處,在於能滿足人靈深處對永恆和完美的渴求。換言之,迪士尼樂園售賣給入場者一個宗教美夢。事實上,上述報導指出,不只迪士尼樂園售賣宗教美夢,很多電影都用同樣手法去吸引觀眾。(看有關新聞報導。)

這報導帶給我兩點感受:第一,上述迪士尼樂園和類似的電影能成功地「售賣宗教美夢」,正好證明人對永恆和完美的渴求是多麽強烈。難怪聖奧斯定說:「我心不能安息,直至安息在祢內」(《懺悔錄》)。第二,世上芸芸宗教,歷代以來有增無減,這現象正好進一步證實,人不断地尋求和開發更多途徑,去滿足自己對永恆和完美的渴求。這渴求是那麽強烈和需要滿足,人甚至樂於陶醉在迪士尼和電影所提供的虚幻的永恆和完美中。

然而,人所開發和建立的各種不同形式的宗教,是否都像迪士尼樂園般,只是在售賣著「宗教美夢」呢?同樣地,所有參加各種宗教組織或用各種宗教形式、禮儀、理想、和標準去生活的人,是否像迪士尼樂園的入場者般,只是用時間和金錢去購買一個自我陶醉的美夢呢?‧這是每一個有宗教信仰的人都應反覆思量的問題。

作為一個決定了用自己的一生去跟隨主耶穌,和為天主教信仰作見證的人,我要承認,如果我所相信和奉為自己做人的真正意義和價值的這一套信仰和價值觀,只是一個自我陶醉的美夢 -- 一個像迪士尼樂園的入場者用時間和金錢去換取的,虛假和暫時的美夢 -- 那麽我這個信仰和做人的方式便是既可笑又可悲的。

那麽,我基於甚麽原因而堅信不移呢?為甚麼我那麽肯定我所信所做的,並不是一場迪士尼樂園的美夢呢?如果很多宗教,甚至全部宗教,都可能是在「售賣美夢」,甚麽原因讓我相信天主教信仰是千真萬確的呢?

其實答案很簡單,而且只有一個,是信基督的人才能這樣答的,因為所有不信基督的宗教都沒有這信念和教導。答案就是:我所信的神的真實性是無可置疑的,因為祂曾降生成人,活在歷史、時間、和空間之中,將做人的意義,生命的終向,和得救所需的一切真理,用人的語言啟示了給人類。他的啟示清楚記載和存留在聖經和聖傳中;他的出現,他的所言所行,在他出現之前,已奇蹟地藉以色列的先知和歷史,準確地預告出來。換言之,聖經為他作證,歷史也為他作證,他的真實性是無可推諉的;他親自建立並從宗徒傳流下來的教會,也不是在「售賣美夢」!

Friday, January 15, 2016

When The Word of God Is Proclaimed...

On the first day of the seventh month, therefore, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate, he read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law...Ezra opened the scroll so that all the people might see it (for he was standing higher up than any of the people); and, as he opened it, all the people rose. Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, "Amen, amen!" Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD, their faces to the ground...Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read. Then (Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and) Ezra the priest-scribe (and the Levites who were instructing the people) said to all the people: "Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep"-for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.(Neh 8:2-10)



The people who attended the Jubilee of Mercy Canada Chinese Catholic Conference a few weeks ago will find striking resemblances between the message of the scriptural passage above and the Conference experience.

There was a strong sense of community and spiritual renewal in the post-exilic era of Ezra and Nehemiah. After many years of political subjugation, social deprivation, and national humiliation under the rule of the Babylonians, the Jews, who had been given an opportunity to return to their homeland to live as a nation again by King Cyrus of Persia, would once again rediscover their national identity and unbreakable bond as God’s chosen people dedicated to observing the Torah as the basic rule of life. Who can fail to heed the touching scene in the passage when Ezra, standing in an open place before the Water Gate, read out the book of the law to his fellow Jews, who “bowed down and prostrated themselves before the Lord” and “were weeping as they heard the words of the law” (Neh 8:6, 9)?

Living in a country of immigrants and multiculturalism, the Chinese Catholic community in Canada has had its fair share of “identity crisis”. Confronted with totally different living conditions, weathers, languages, social and cultural values, many of us are struggling to find a new equilibrium in a foreign land that will allow us to continue to live in peace and comfort again. It is a lengthy and difficult adjustment that affects not only the social aspect of our lives but also our spiritual relationship with God and with one another.

Like the Jewish community that gathered before Ezra, Nehemiah, and their elders at the Water Gate to hear the book of the law proclaimed “from daybreak till midday” (Neh 8:3), more than 1,200 Chinese Catholic faithful from across the country gathered before Archbishop Savio Hon and the clerics and religious of the community at the first ever Canada Chinese Catholic Conference on January 2, 2016 to experience a day of worship and spiritual renewal. Like the post-exilic Jews who rediscovered their unity and national identity as the chosen people of God after living in hardship and disarray for many years, there was something extraordinary and powerful about the Conference experience that somehow reminded the participants of their unbreakable bond as a Chinese Catholic community, and of their communion as many parts in the one Body of Christ that St. Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 12. His Excellency, Archbishop Hon alluded to the same Pauline concept when he pointed out to 450 guests present in the post-Conference banquet, including clergy, religious, and laity, that more than a loose cluster of parishes and faith communities, the Chinese Catholic faithful in Canada were “a family” due to our common ancestral roots and our unity in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5).

When the book containing the word of God is opened up and proclaimed, the universe stands still and things inexplicably happen (cf. Rev. 8:1, Is. 55:11). Whether it was Ezra reading out the book of the law to his people at the Water Gate, or Jesus reciting from the prophet Isaiah in a synagogue in Nazareth (cf. Lk 4:14-21), or Archbishop Savio Hon expounding from the Scriptures on the mercy of God at the Conference in Toronto, the proclamation of the word of God always promises to pierce the human hearts (cf. Heb 4:12) and bring down all barriers.