Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Why Is Jesus "the Son of Man"?

Last year the CMCC Bible Study Program celebrated 15 years of studying the Bible and growing together in the word of God. The book we studied to commemorate this special year was Daniel. As usual, the program ended in June, but it will begin anew in September together with my other programs and activities. The two summer months in between provide me with a cushion not only to take a break but also to rejuvenate, study, plan, and get ready for next year.

With the fascinating and sometimes frightening images of the Book of Daniel still fresh in my head – the statue of four metals being smashed by a pulverizing stone, three young men worshipping God safely in a burning fiery furnace, Daniel being protected by God’s angel in the den of lions, the visions of the four beasts, etc. – I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Church would use one of the most well-known Danielic images – the enthronement in heaven of “the Son of man” – as a key theme that connects all three readings of the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

The influence that the Book of Daniel has on Christianity is profound and indisputable. The New Testament books, particularly some of the Pauline epistles and the Book of Revelation, often take symbols, images, and phrases straight out of Daniel to demonstrate that the Danielic prophecies have come to fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus himself also refers to Daniel on numerous occasions, including calling himself the “Son of man” and linking his own eschatological glory to Daniel’s vision of the Son of man riding on the clouds of heaven (Mt. 24:30, 26:64).

The Church Fathers are quick to recognize the theological significance of the “Son of man” in Daniel’s vision. Ancient Jewish tradition identified this title with a heavenly Messiah (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, comment on Daniel 7:13, p.32). In addition to its messianic implication, the Church Fathers see in this unusual title the mystery of God taking on human nature, and in doing so perfecting and elevating it to a lofty height inconceivable to the human mind and unreachable by mere human efforts. This gives us a more profound understanding of why our “hope in the Lord” will enable us to “soar as with eagles’ wings” (Isaiah 40:31). St. Athanasius explains this overpowering mystery of the divinization of humanity in the most succinct way possible: “The Son of God became the Son of man so that the sons of men could become the sons of God” (CCC 460).

Of all the experiences that Peter encounters on Mount Tabor (generally believed to be the holy site of Transfiguration), he remembers one in particular: the Father’s confirmation of Jesus as “my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (2 Pt 1:17). For Peter, the confirmation is a powerful assurance that enables him to believe “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” cannot be one of those “cleverly devised myths” (2 Pt 1:16).

Finally, we can’t blame Peter for appearing a little overwhelmed, if not downright disoriented, when he proposes to make three tents on the Mount of Transfiguration: “one for [Jesus], one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Mt. 17:4). After all, revealed for the eyes of Peter, James and John to behold at the Transfiguration is “a sublime expression of God’s glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth” that have proven too much even for Elijah and Moses to see (BXVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, n.35; 1 Kgs 19:13; Ex 33:20-23).

Marriage in the Scriptures

I'd like to forward Bishop Robert Barron's article on marriage for your reading pleasure. It's not long; it's essentially his homily for a married couple. Please follow this link: A Bride and Groom; THE Bride and Groom

Marriage is one of the most prominent and beautiful theme of the Bible, if not the most prominent and beautiful. Coming from Bishop Barron, the reflection is nothing short of eloquent, beautiful and inspirational. But then again, the scriptural theme of marriage is in itself full of eloquence, beauty and inspiration; which is why it continues to capture my imagination and stimulate my deepest yearning for God. After reading so many eloquent and beautiful discourses on marriage by various theologians, among them von Balthasar, St. JPII, Pope Benedict XVI, Dr. Scott Hahn, and Bishop Barron, it's become very clear to me that the true source of their eloquence and beauty is God himself, who is the real author of the Bible and is somehow able to "write history" the way a poet writes poems. I am convinced that the Bible is the most beautiful and eloquent literature ever written in human language. The theme of marriage alone and how it unfolds and navigates beautifully through the Old and New Testament books is sufficient to support my position.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Canada 150

Born to a Chinese family in the British colony of Hong Kong, I spent my teenage years in an oriental and patriarchal culture that was conditioned, on the one hand, by traditional Confucius and Buddhist values, and shaped, on the other, by the western and Christian way of living due to the influence of the British. At 19, I left the colony to receive university education in Canada. Without knowing it at the time, my departure from my place of birth, meant to be a 4-year hiatus for higher education and better future, turned out to be a permanent exodus that determined not only where I would reside and raise my family for the rest of my life, but also what country my children – and my children’s children – would be proud to call home: Canada.

On this 150th anniversary of my country – the country that extended its welcoming arms and embraced me lovingly 35 years ago when my place of birth rejected me in so many ways, my heart is filled with jubilation and thankfulness: jubilation because this wonderful country of 35 million people is a land uniquely adorned with incredible wonders of nature, enormous resources, polite and pleasant people whose diverse origins are the reason for mutual respect, not conflict, and a constitutional architecture that protects diversity, promotes freedom, and ensures justice and equality under the law; thankfulness because my Canadian citizenship - the immense good and human dignity that it garners - is in the final account not the result of my personal pursuit or anybody's kind assistance but God’s special grace.

Some people see a person’s ethnic and cultural characteristics as the overriding factors that define his national identity, i.e. his country. The absurdity of this view, which we shall call “nationalism of ethnic and cultural identity”, is that, when taken strictly it means Canada is not a real country! With the exception of the aboriginal peoples, the ethnic and cultural origins of the 35 million people in this country are not Canadian, which according to this view means Canada is not their country! To the people who see me in the light of this position, my response is this: as an ethnic Chinese, I pledge my personal allegiance to my Chinese heritage, including my ancestors and 5,000 years of Chinese culture; the former is in my DNA and the latter my heart and sentiments. But as a human being who treasures freedom, dignity, and constitutional rights, as a family person who seeks to marry and raise children, and as a national subject who entrusts his livelihood, health, education, and personal well-being to the governance of a state, I do not hesitate to identify myself wholeheartedly and unreservedly as a Canadian.

The newspaper this morning is like a Charles Dickens novel – a tale of two cities or two places. As celebrations of 150 years get underway here across Canada with fanfare and jubilation, Hong Kong, which is 12 hours ahead in time zone on the other side of the globe, has just finished a solemn remembrance of 20 years of British handover of the colony to China. At this watershed moment of the two places, my heartbeat rises and falls with every jubilation of my country and anxiety of my birthplace….