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


(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



「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。