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


“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




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。








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)