Saturday, August 11, 2018

Are You a Follower of Christ Or Just a Fan?

As fascinating as the Bible is, we must keep in mind that biblical interpretation is ultimately not academic but liturgical.

In the gospel reading of Sunday, September 9, Jesus heals a deaf man who also has a speech impediment. The significance of this miracle can only be fully understood from Luke’s account of a brief encounter between the disciples of John the Baptist and Jesus. When John sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus whether he is “the one who is to come”, our Lord answers, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Luke 7:19, 22). Like John’s disciples, what we have seen and heard in this Sunday’s gospel are miracles similar to those alluded to in the said Lucan account.

In the first reading, promises of the same miracles roll off the tongue of the Prophet Isaiah one after another like magic roses: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing” (Is 35:5-6). By performing all the signs that Isaiah has promised will appear when the Messiah comes, Jesus is making an epic statement: The Messianic prophecies of Isaiah have now been fulfilled in me; I am the Messiah, “the one to come”. Promises made, promises kept!

It doesn’t take long for a careful and persistent reader of the Bible to realize that the book is not an undifferentiated collection of unrelated texts, voluminous that it is. Rather, from beginning to end, it is a remarkably coherent story about God’s plan to save us. Gradually but surely God’s plan unfolds in human history, through generations and across geographical boundaries, defying all cultural barriers and surpassing all religious and political ideologies.

It flows in continuity. Through human writers, the same God who tells us the story of creation, the conjugal union of Adam and Eve, and the kingdom of David, also reveals to us the consummation of the New World order, the one-body union of Christ and his Church (the new Adam and Eve), and the glory of the Kingdom of God. From the Old Testament to the New, every promise or prophecy that has ever been made is fulfilled; every iconic figure, image, and sign that has ever crossed the stage of this long drama of Redemption is given its definitive and final meaning.

In contemplating this awesome mystery – this heavenly treasury of life and wisdom that we call the Bible, St. Augustine, known for his skills in rhetoric and articulation of words, could barely find words to express himself. This short acclaim is all the words he could manage to put together: Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet, Vetus in Novo patet, or the New Testament is hidden in the Old, the Old is revealed in the New, his famous dictum on the Bible. Hidden in the Old Testament - this Sunday's first reading from Isaiah - is Jesus coming as our Savior. Revealed in the New Testament - this Sunday's gospel reading - is how the Isaian promise came to fruition in Jesus.

In concluding this reflection, here’s a little reminder for those interested in biblical hermeneutics (the interpretation of biblical texts) from someone who speaks from his experience in this regard. It’s easy to make the mistake of wanting to be Jesus’ follower but ending up being just a fan. We must keep in mind that just as the word of God is spoken not for us to study but to live, the discipline of biblical interpretation ultimately is pursued not as an academic exercise but as a living, liturgical experience. What are we saying here? What we are saying is that to be truly Christian is to be a true follower of Christ and not just a fan. A fan of Christ is interested in – even crazy about - everything he does, researches every word he says, and reads every book there is about him; but somehow just falls short of really entering into an authentic and intimate relationship with him. A true follower of Christ, on the other hand, wants to live in him; experience his presence; and become one with him. What better way to do all that than going to Mass, which is a significant and integral part of living out our Catholic faith? For both liturgically and sacramentally, it is in the Mass celebration that Christ makes his word heard through the Liturgy of the Word; his presence felt through the priest celebrating the Mass in persona Christi; and his Body and Blood come alive through the Liturgy of the Eucharist!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Do We Pray To Change God's Mind?

For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. (Phil 1:21)

Approaching my mid-sixties, various ailments in my body begin to appear; some just plain annoying, some can be serious if left unattended. With such ailments in mind, I’ve been pleading for God’s help in my prayers: hope it’s not serious; grant me speedy recovery; save me from further medical treatments; keep me healthy so I can continue to serve….

As I prayed more and reflected more on the spirit of the Gospel, these words of St. Paul suddenly emerged like a stream of light: “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain” (Phil 1:21).

Praise the Lord! The enlightenment is profound and comforting. Why worry about these bodily ailments? They will continue to appear and will do so even more as my feeble human body ages. It’s only natural. If my health goes downhill from here to the point that I have to leave this world, I just have to accept it. It’ll be sad indeed to have to leave behind my family and friends. It’ll be unfortunate if I can’t use God's gifts to serve people more. But the eventuality of such an outcome only makes me realize what a wonderful blessing God has given me through baptism and how thankful I should be to Him for the profound awakening that He granted in the nineties by putting me through a deep conversion which truly turned my life around – or upside down, to be exact - and enabled me to walk in the light of Christ ever since!

This powerful experience of prayer also reinforces St. Augustine’s explanation of what prayer is and how it works. We often pray as though we want to change God’s mind. But how can we powerless mortals be capable of changing and influencing God who is by nature immutable? We pray, according to St. Augustine, not to change God but to change ourselves! “So by confessing our own miserable state and acknowledging your mercy towards us we open our hearts to you, so that you may free us wholly, as you have already begun to do. Then we shall no longer be miserable in ourselves but will find our true happiness in you” (Confessions, XI.1). Referring to Psalm 50:9-10 – “I need no bullock from your house, no goats from your fold; for every animal of the forest is mine, beasts by the thousands on my mountains” - he says we must understand that we pray and worship not because God needs us or desires our offerings but because we need God to change our hearts through prayer (City of God, I.x.6). How true!

Monday, July 23, 2018



彌撒前半部稱為聖道禮儀。它的來源可追索到古猶太人會堂(Synagogue) 的做法。當時的參禮者用祈禱和讚頌來敬禮天主,並誦讀聖言,聆聽祂的教導。誦讀的經文來自舊約法律和先知書。誦讀過程中,還加插聖詠詠唱。天主教教會採用的Gregorian Chant的樂曲,很多與當年耶路撒冷聖殿所採用的音樂有關(註一)。除舊約經文外,初期教會開始在聖道禮儀中加入有關福音和宗徒書信的讀經,確立了今天彌撒聖道禮儀的雛形。


彌撒的後半部是聖祭禮儀,即耶穌基督在最後晚餐中所訂立的聖軆聖事(見瑪竇福音26:17-28, 路加福音22:7-20) 。耶穌復活後在厄瑪烏村莊與兩門徒相遇的過程,本身就是一個彌撒的縮影:先講道(「衪於是從梅瑟及眾先知開始,把全部經書論及衪的話,都給他們解釋了」(路24:27)) ,再領聖軆(「當耶穌與他們坐下吃飯的時候,就拿起餅來,祝福了,擘開,遞給他們 」(路24:30)) 。

(一)關於猶太傳統和Gregorian Chant關係,請參閱The History of Gregorian Chant:

Thursday, July 12, 2018


人類已觀察到的宇宙全貌 - 非常震撼!



但從他告訢我的往事,和談及過去一些只有他和我才知的,有關我們兩人的友情和関係;再加上他能正確地告訴我很多很多有關我的家人和我倆一起成長的事情,使我不能不相信他的確是林小明。他甚至叫我唱小时我喜歡唱的, Cliff Richard 的 When the Girl in Your Arms Is the Girl in Your Heart。我一邊唱,他一邊像小時候般,用la la la 來伴和,讓我一點也不再猶豫,百分之一百肯定,這人真是林小明!


Friday, June 8, 2018



「就讓我們脫去各樣的重擔和容易纏累我們的罪,藉著忍耐去跑那擺在我們前面的賽程, 仰望信仰的創始者和成終者耶穌。」(希伯來人書12:1-2)


(一) 簡單 一 賽程上,運動員要行裝簡便,盡量脱去阻碍行動的重擔。(古希腊奥林匹克運動員甚至身無寸縷地參賽。)他明白競賽的旅途只是一個過程,不是終向,所以不會眷戀過程本身,也不寄情過程中的事與物,將一切看成幫助人跑到終點的工具。所以快樂和成功的人生,應生活簡樸。

(二)肯挨 一 要成功跑到终点,便要好好地鍛鍊,吃得苦中苦,方為人上人。在人生道路上應忍耐,堅信上主,縱遇上痛苦困难,絕不放棄,反而因為信靠主而樂於接受考验,心中時常充滿平安和感恩。

(三)信主 一 最重要地,在賽跑途中,双目注視的,不是花花世界的名名利利和享受,也不是週圍的人。很多人甚至將人當偶像來崇拜,或不斷將自己和别人作比较,做成鬥争或帶來妒忌、抱怨和仇恨。人應注視的是主耶穌,他已在我们前便完美地完成賽程,应跟隨他的言行、榜樣和教導。凡事先問「WWJD」?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018






但天主慈愛憐憫,不希望人永遠離開祂。結果在我們的原祖父母第一次犯罪的同時,天主立刻宣佈祂的救贖計劃。祂對這條蛇 -- 後來若望指證它就是「魔鬼或撒殫」(默12:9)-- 宣佈判決:「我要把仇恨放在你和女人,你的後裔和她的後裔之間,她的後裔要踏碎你的頭顱,你要傷害他的腳跟」(創 3:15)。這段話在基督信仰傳統上一直被稱為「原始福音」或Protoevangelium,因為在這個古老的故事中,我們看到上主的預告,宣佈耶穌的救贖會踏碎撒殫的頭顱並拯救我們於地獄永罰(天主教教理410)。

請注意,除了救世主會踏碎撒殫的頭外;在這善與惡的對抗中,有一個「女人」被巧妙地安排於其中。教會傳統一向認為這「女人」是聖母瑪利亞,因為是她的後代,耶穌,會攻擊撒殫的頭(天主教教理411,《教會》憲章55)。她在「原始福音」中的關鍵角色,就像她在新約福音中的角色一樣,是不可或缺的,因為種種原因,她的角色充滿涵意,包括她修復了厄娃所犯的錯、她的無玷始胎、她在天主救世計劃中,與天主無與倫比地配合的獨特使命等(天主教教理 411, 968)。但在這裡,我們只強調一個重要的原因:她出於信德的服從。

為什麼這「女人」─聖母瑪利亞─會出現在這場有決定性和激烈的善與惡的爭鬥中?她出現是因為她出於信德的順從。當她被要求在天主的拯救計劃中擔綱關鍵性的角色時,瑪利亞的回答非常肯定:「看,上主的婢女,願照你的話成就於我吧!」(路1:38)。她的應允讓天主的計劃成為可能;她的應允給聖子一個用來做祭獻的身體,使聖子能夠承行聖父的旨意(參看希10:5-7,《救世主之母》通諭 n.13)。聖母「充滿恩寵」是因為她相信,而「那信了由上主傳於她的話必要完成的,是有福的」(路1:28, 45)。

現在回到這個主日令我們感到困惑的福音讀經。由於尊重她作為耶穌母親的身份,人們覺得有必要宣告聖母瑪利亞的到來。而耶穌的反應絕不是譴責祂的母親,祂的回答肯定了她至高無上的榮譽和特殊地位,祂提醒群衆 -- 和世界 -- 聖母值得我們極度的尊敬,並不因為她是祂的母親, 而是因為她相信並服從天主的聖言。聖母瑪利亞的服從扭轉了厄娃的不服從;她的堅信解開了因厄娃的不信所形成的死結。主耶穌堅持地說:「因為誰奉行天主的旨意,他就是我的兄弟、姊妹和母親」(谷3:35)。

Does Jesus Honor His Mother?

Jesus’ response on learning his mother’s arrival sounds more like a rebuke than an affectionate welcome.

One can’t say Jesus is very respectful of his mother in this Sunday’s gospel. When told his mother and relatives are outside asking for him, Jesus’ response, as quoted by Mark, is: “Who are my mother and my brothers?... For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” This sounds more like a rebuke than an affectionate welcome for his mother and relatives. Has Jesus forgotten the 4th commandment – honor thy father and thy mother? Could this be a sin committed by Jesus, who is supposedly sinless? Let’s reflect a little more before rushing into such a conclusion.

Put under the microscope in the first reading is Adam and Eve’s violation of God’s command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad (Gn 2:16-17). The consequence of our first parents’ disobedience is immediate and catastrophic: their nakedness, for which they have “felt no shame” before the violation suddenly makes them feel insecure (Gn 2:25). But how is this catastrophic? Doesn’t everyone feel insecure when naked? Hang on. There’s something more to this problem than meets the eye. Hidden underneath Adam’s seemingly harmless feeling of vulnerability is a devastating reality that necessitates God’s immediate action.

“I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself,” Adam explains on God’s probing (Gn 3:9-10). When does a person feel like he/she needs to hide from God’s piercing eyes? You guessed it: when he/she is living in a state of grave sin. Such is the state that Adam and Eve find themselves in after disobeying God’s command. Since true happiness can only be found in God, our first parents can’t possibly be happy when they don’t want to be near God. In fact, there’s a place that is so far removed from God that His presence absolutely cannot be felt. It is called “hell”. When they choose not to follow God’s way; when they intentionally avoid God, desiring not to dwell in His abode of eternal happiness; hell is the only dwelling place left for them. Clearly, humanity is in dire straight after Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.

But God, who is loving and merciful, does not want the human race to fall away from Him forever. As a result, He announces His redemptive plan as soon as the first sinful act of our first parents is committed. To the serpent – identified later as “the Devil and Satan” by John (Rev 12:9) - He pronounces His judgement: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel" (Gn 3:15). This passage is what the Christian tradition has always referred to as “the first Gospel” or Protoevangelium, because we see in this ancient event a prophetic announcement of Jesus’ redemption which will crush Satan’s head and save us from eternal damnation (CCC410).

Note that apart from the Savior, whose job it is to crush Satan’s head; strategically placed in this confrontation between the good and the evil forces is “the woman” whom the Church traditionally understands as Mary since it’s her offspring, Jesus, that will strike at Satan’s head (CCC411, LG55). Her pivotal appearance in “the first Gospel”, just as the indispensable role she plays in the actual Gospel, is rich in meaning for many reasons, including her restoration of Eve’s mishaps, her immaculate conception, her singular mission as the Co-operatrix of our Lord in the salvation of mankind, etc. (CCC 411, 968). But for the purposes of this reflection, let’s focus on just one important reason: her obedience of faith.

Why is “the woman” – Mary – present in this decisive and monumental struggle between the forces of good and evil? She is there because she agrees to with the obedience of faith. When asked to play a pivotal role in God’s plan of salvation, Mary’s response is affirmative: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Her “yes” made God’s plan possible; her “yes” gave the Son the body that he needed for his sacrificial offering and made it possible for the Son to do the Father’s will (c.f. Heb 10:5-7, Redemptoris Mater n.13). Mary is “full of grace” because she believed - “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:28, 45).

Now back to this Sunday’s Gospel reading that has planted so much doubt in our heads. The crowd feels obliged to announce Mary’s arrival out of respect for her identity as Jesus’ mother. Far from being a rebuke of his mother, Jesus’ reply on hearing the announcement is a strong endorsement of her supreme honors and privileges, reminding the crowd – and the world - that Mary deserves our utmost respect not so much because she is his mother, but because she believed and obeyed the word of God. Mary’s obedience reversed the disobedience of Eve; her belief untied the knot of Eve’s unbelief. “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother”, our Lord insists (Mk 3:35).