Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The “Little Apocalypse”

Are we nearing the day of the sun darkening, the moon losing its light, and the stars falling from the sky?

The gospel reading of Sunday November 18, 2018 (33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time) comes from one of the most difficult sections of Mark that is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse or “Little Apocalypse” (Mark 13:1-37). It’s so named because the discourse between Jesus and his four apostles - Peter, James, John, and Andrew - took place while Jesus “was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple area”, and its literary style is dominated by apocalyptic and prophetic symbolism (Mark 13:3).

Hard to miss is the eschatological overtone of the gospel reading: “[I]n those days…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken”; “and then [the Son of Man] will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth” (Mark 13:24-25, 27). ). The nerve-racking, end-of-the world language that begins with visions of the celestial bodies in disarray, rises to a crescendo with the appearance of the “Son of Man” - the royal, Messianic figure in Daniel 7 whose enthronement in heaven caps off the Last Day – and ends in a thunderous blast when Jesus warns that “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” (Mark 13:30).

If there’s any doubt about the theme of this Sunday’s readings in spite of the eschatological language of the gospel reading, the first reading, also from the Book of Daniel, is selected to drive home the prophetic warning that the day is coming when the whole human race – from now to ancient times, from the current generation to Adam and Eve - must witness the unthinkable occurrence of the resurrection and the Last Judgement. "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace”, Daniel predicts (Daniel 12:2).

A key difficulty of the Olivette Discourse is that what is apparently a depiction of the end of the world that includes cosmic and catastrophic atrocities is predicted to occur at a time that is plainly inaccurate if understood literally. According to Jesus, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” (Mk 13:30), which suggests that the fulfillment of these eschatological events would have already taken place within the lifetime of his contemporaries. If that’s the case, why are we still here two thousand years later, alive and kicking?

When it comes to biblical exegesis (interpreting the various passages of the Bible), it’s important to understand the difference between the literal sense and the spiritual sense (see CCC 115-119). Literally, “the sun darkened”, the moon losing light, “the stars falling from the sky” (cf. Mark 13:24-25) suggest physical, cosmic disturbances. Spiritually these visions of heavenly chaos can be understood as God’s judgment against the pagan ways of Jerusalem which in Jesus’ time had deteriorated to an unseen level in terms of faith and morality (see commentary of Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament on this passage). The final punishment of Jerusalem, mentioned repeatedly by the OT prophets and Jesus himself, would be so sweeping and devastating that it could only be described in end-of-the-world language. In 70 AD, which is well within the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporaries, a large Roman army under the generalship of Vespasian, the future Roman Emperor Titus, besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, demolishing the 500-hundred-year-old Temple, plundering the whole city, and killing 1.1 million people, of which the majority were Jewish. The rest is history.

For real-life application, let us end this reflection with a few thought-provoking questions: Given the “pagan ways” of our world today and its new lows in morality and faith, can we see the city of Jerusalem of 70 AD as the prefiguration of the world we live in? As the residents of this “world city”, are we in danger of an imminent and devastating destruction that might sweep away not only a city but the whole world? Are we nearing the day of the sun darkening, the moon losing its light, and the stars falling from the sky?

Friday, October 5, 2018






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」?