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

醫院急症室的一幕

這是我親身經歷的故事。在醫院急症室一病房,傳來女病人歇斯底理的叫喊和狂駡。她操粵語;她的病房門口站著兩個保安人员。她像有精神病,重覆和不停地破口大骂説:「唔好搅我呀!搅,搅,搅!我毛管都動啦!重搅!重搅!係咪我死咗你先開心呀!」

不知道她實質上遭遇過甚麼事。被非禮?被強姦?被丈夫或男友拋棄?只覺她非常憤怒和無助,好像一個不幸受了很大和很多打擊的女人。

聽著,聽著,心裡不期然為她感到難過和凄酸。感觉是:這世界很多時對女性不公平,她們常是男人的受害者,社會的犧性品。各種社會環境和家庭倫理關係,對女性也較不利。

記得孩童時,在我成長的地方,有一個好赌的女士。她賭到沒錢便出賣肉身,做「生意」時連架部也沒有,與「顧客」就在樓梯底了事。做完「生意」又再賭,反正自己身體就是用不完的本錢。想起来,她好賭固然不好,但她也是這社會制度下,男人的受害者。

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

天主教的禮儀和傳統讓人參與耶穌和宗徒的經歷

因著天主教教會悠悠二千年的彌撒禮儀和傳統,我們奇妙地參與著耶穌和宗徒們所經歷過的同樣的敬禮。


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。

值得留意的是,上述彌撒禮儀演變的歷史,顯示我們今天在彌撒聖道禮儀中所經歷的,與耶穌和宗徒們當年在猶太人會堂和耶路撒冷聖殿所經歷的近似和有關。他們也聆聽著同樣的,來自法律和先知書的經文,和用類似的音樂來詠唱聖詠。這解釋了傳統為甚麼重要。因著天主教教會悠悠二千年的彌撒禮儀和傳統,我們奇妙地參與著耶穌和宗徒們所經歷過的同樣的敬禮。

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:https://spiritualray.com/the-history-of-gregorian-chant

Thursday, July 12, 2018

人類已觀察到的宇宙全貌

人類已觀察到的宇宙全貌 - 非常震撼!

上面的短片很有啟發性,發人深省。有人會因此而信有神,也有人會因此而不信。這是因為人總依靠自己的理性去分析和推想。不幸地,人類的理性有其弱點,也有被不正確地運用的時候。所以人根据理性而得來的結論,很多時都不正確。

假設今天我突然瞎了眼,以至完全看不見事物。正呆坐家中期間,有一個人突然來探望我。他説自己是童年時和我一起玩的街童,叫做林小明(假名)。一時間,我懷疑他所說是否真實。一方面我看不見他;此外因為年紀関係,他的聲音也变了,使我無法分辨他究竟是不是林小明。

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!

天主就是上文假设的林小明。祂為了證實自己是天主而說和做的事情,都清楚記載在聖經中。這些說話和行為要比上述林小明所説和做的,更強而有力,讓人無可推諉。這解釋了為甚麼十六年來,我從未間段地舉行聖經硏討會,讓人根據天主直接啓示的話語去決定衪存在與否,而不是靠自己或某某學者的觀察和分析。

Friday, June 8, 2018

人生猶如一塲賽跑

今年我主持的聖經硏討會硏究的聖經是希伯来人書。想和大家分享以下一段很有意思的經文。

「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)

對保祿,人生像古希腊奧林匹克競賽一般,是一個競争的過程;它猶如一塲賽跑,參賽者務求成功到達终點(天鄉)。這表示成功的人生(或賽程)應具備以下三大特點:

(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

耶穌孝敬祂的母親嗎?

當聽到自己母親來到,耶穌的回應聽起來好像有些拒人千里,沒有親切歡迎母親和家人。


這個主日的福音讀經來看,似乎耶穌不大尊重祂的母親。當人告知耶穌祂母親和兄弟在外面要求見祂時,按馬爾谷祂的回應是:「誰是我的母親和我的兄弟?......因為誰奉行天主的旨意,他就是我的兄弟、姊妹和母親」。聽起來耶穌好像拒人千里,沒有親切歡迎母親和家人。耶穌是否忘記了十誡中的第四誡─當孝敬父母?雖説耶穌不會有罪,但祂這反應是否代表他犯了罪?我們先別倉猝下結論,先探討一下。

今天的讀經一將原祖亞當和厄娃違背天主的命令,吃了知善惡樹上的果子一事放在顯微鏡下細看(創2:16-17)。我們的原祖父母不服從天主命令的後果是即時和災難性的:在犯錯前,他們赤身露體,「並不害羞」,但現在他們卻突然感到不安(創2:25)。但為甚麼說這是災難性?每個人赤身露體時,不是都會覺得不安嗎?請讀下去。這是表面,内裡有更深層次的問題。亞當的脆弱,看來沒有什麼不妥,其實裡面卻出現了一些極壞的問題,需要天主立即採取行動。

當天主查問亞當時,他這樣向天主解釋:「我害怕,因為我赤身裸體,所以我藏了起來」(創3:9-10)。人在甚麼時候會覺得他需要躲避天主鋭利的眼光?你猜對了:當他生活在重罪中時。這就是亞當和厄娃在違背天主命令之後所處的狀態。由於真正的幸福只能在天主内得到,當原祖不想靠近天主時,他們是不可能快樂的。事實上,有一個地方離開天主極遠,甚至連祂的存在也絕對不能感覺得到。那地方稱為「地獄」。當人選擇不遵循天主的道路時;當人故意迴避天主,不欲棲身於祂永遠幸福的居所時;地獄是他唯一的歸宿。很明顯,當原祖父母失去天主的恩寵之後,人類便處於極大的危機中。

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).

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Monday, May 14 - Join FLL Spiritual Formation Meeting on St. Thomas Aquinas Telecast! 網上現場收看生命恩泉屬靈培育聚會直播!

Chosen by Bishop Robert Barron as one of six pivotal players of the Church in the 2nd millennium, St. Thomas Aquinas is known for many distinguishing roles: a Dominican friar, a scholar, a theologian, a philosopher, a mystic, and a saint. Little known, however, is his role as a humble servant of the Church. He prayed, worshiped, celebrated the Eucharist day in and day out as a priest, and composed eucharistic hymns which we still sing. When the FLL Spiritual Formation Program meets again at 8 p.m., on Monday, May 14, 2018, we will follow Bishop Barron’s DVD to study and discuss the life and teaching of this spiritual giant of the Church, whose masterpiece, summa theologiae, every student learning to master the art of conducting proper theological explorations must study. If you can't join in person, consider joining our live telecast, which will allow you to catch all actions and discussions on-line and at the same time. Just click this link at 8 p.m., on Monday, May 14: Join FLL Spiritual Formation on St. Thomas Aquinas.

被Bishop Robert Barron揀選為第二個千年六位教會關鍵人物之一的聖多瑪斯·阿奎那,扮演著很多卓越的角色:道明會修士,學者,神學家,哲學家,神秘主義者,聖人。但很少人會想到,他只是一位謙卑的教會的僕人。他每天用司鐸身份祈禱,敬禮天主,舉行聖祭。到今天我們仍頌唱他創作的聖體讚歌。當生命恩泉屬靈培育課程在五月十四日星期一晚上8:00-10:00在生命恩泉錄影室再次聚會時,我們將會跟隨Bishop Barron的影碟,學習和討論這位教會的屬靈巨人。他的名著《神學大全》,至今仍是有志於學習和把握神學探討藝術的每一個學員所必須研究的。如果您不能親身出現參與,請考慮網上現場收看聚會直播。只需在五月十四日星期一晚上8:00,點擊這連結便可以:網上現場收看生命恩泉屬靈培育聚會直播

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Understanding the Bible as a Polyphonic Hymn

The universality of God’s love and catholicity of His Church is a characteristic integral to the harmony of the polyphonic hymn.

Coming from a large family of 10 siblings, I’m keenly aware of how certain distinctive family characteristics – personality traits, physical and facial features, etc. – are somehow shared by all family members, each to a different extent. These are “legacies” from our ancestors handed down to us through our parents. They remind us of our kinship and common ancestral origin. Better than our birth certificates, these characteristics prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we truly belong to the same family.

Unlike my family of 10 siblings, the Bible that we’ve come to know today is not the result of a biological and anthropological process of development. But as the word of God spoken humanly to reveal God to the world, through various authors over the centuries and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is in a very real sense “a symphony of the word”, “a single word expressed in multiple ways”, “a polyphonic hymn” sung by a great multitude of people from different times of human history but all in one accord (cf. Verbum Domini, n.7). There exists in this hymnal harmony we call the Bible a number of distinctive characteristics that the voices of its members share in common. Characteristics that are easily detectable by the careful listener, allowing him to identify the voices as either integral or peripheral to the overall harmony. In this Sunday’s Mass readings, we recognize one of those distinctive characteristics – the universality of God’s love.

Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, Peter baptizes Cornelius and his kinsmen, all of whom gentiles. "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him," he explains in reading one. Ripples of the same message spread through the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power”, “in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice”. The message continues to intensify in the 2nd reading where love is singled out as the litmus test for determining whether one is of God. “[L]ove is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God”, John declares.

“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you”, says our Lord in this Sunday’s gospel. Echoing John’s teaching above - or chronologically the other way around – Jesus makes it clear that what it takes for us to remain in him is to “love one another as I love you”. How does Jesus love us? With a love than which there is no greater: “lay down one's life for one's friends”. It’s this love that enables us to remain in him, not one’s nationality, nor race, nor religious affiliation or lack of it. If the message of God’s universal love ripples through the first two readings, it emerges more like a tidal wave in Jesus’ proclamation of his commandment of love. “Tidal wave” is too much of an exaggeration, you say? Just recall the rude awakening that Peter experienced earlier in the same chapter of this Sunday’s first reading, where God had to use a vision to help him understand His universal love. It’s this realization that enables him to profess in the first reading: "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him."

Paul goes even further when he calls the universality of God’s love and salvation “the mystery of Christ”. It is a mystery because it was previously hidden from the world. The mystery is now revealed to his holy apostles by the Spirit (cf. Eph. 3:4-8). This explains the Judaic teaching against the gentiles (who were considered “unclean”) and Peter’s bewilderment when asked to consume foods deemed profane by the Mosaic Law (c.f. Acts 10:14). After all, according to the Old Testament school of thought, only Israel, God’s chosen people, was considered the holy nation of God.

If God’s love is universal, so is the Church He instituted to bring His love to everyone. It was for the fulfillment of the catholicity of his Church that Jesus on his Ascension into glory mandated his disciples to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19) – a mission faithfully and successfully carried out by the Church in her history of over 2,000 years; a mission so prominent to her identity and intrinsic to the core of her being that the Church Fathers had made a point of including it as one of the four marks of the Church in the Creeds: I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The careful listener listening to the polyphonic hymn of the Bible knows that this teaching is biblical because it’s one of those distinctive characteristics that are integral to its overall harmony.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Bishop Barron - A Case for Priestly Celibacy

Bishop Barron is always a pleasure to read. One reason why is his language, which is uniquely articulate in style and distinctively scholastic in tradition. In the article below, he discusses the reasons - both good and bad - for celibacy in priesthood and how he has "struggled mightily" with it even after more than 30 years of priestly vocation. I like how he pinpoints the unique sacramental nature of celibacy - that it's pointing us to God and to the form of life as an eschatological person. Interestingly, the sacramentality of sex - its beauty and goodness that reveals God - is at one and the same time a support and a hurdle for practicing celibacy in his case. I can assure those of you who take the time to read that you will have no regrets for doing so.

Bishop Robert Barron - A Case for Priestly Celibacy


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Would you support this blog?您願意幫助推廣這網誌嗎?

Dear friends,

Happy Easter!

As you know, my personal blog ELODOCUMENTS is one of the more important platforms I use to share my thoughts with the Chinese Catholic community and friends both in Canada and abroad. It's a very important and effective tool for my personal ministry of evangelization. I understand many of you visit ELODOCUMENTS either regularly or occasionally, for which I am deeply grateful.

One very good way to promote this blog is for my visitors to identify themselves as blog "followers". This can be done by simply clicking the button underneath the header "Support this blog and the BSP, become a Follower". The header is located at the top right hand side of the blog. It can be seen easily. Would I be able to count on your kind support?

Becoming a follower of my blog is obligation-free. It's basically equivalent to "like" on Face Book. You'll receive no emails from the blog or any other distractions. But every time a new post from my blog is published, your blogspot reading list (automatically created by blogspot when you agree to become my blog follower) will be notified, which you don't have to track at all.

Hope to meet YOU on my blog! Please encourage your friends and relatives to follow ELODOCUMENTS too. Thank you very much for supporting ELODOCUMENTS and my evangelization ministry!

Blessings and peace,
Edmond

各位加拿大和外地好友:

祝您們復活節愉快!

相信各位都知道我的個人網誌ELODOCUMENTS是我用來做福傳工作的重要渠道之一。它幫助我與海内外好友和教友們保持聯絡,分享自己的思念和生活體驗。如果您間中或定期性地也會瀏覽ELODOCUMENTS,您是否願意幫助我推廣這網誌呢?

您只需點擊在網誌右上角「請支持這網誌和聖經研討會網站,成為跟隨者」下面的按纽便可以。成為跟隨者不會帶給您麻煩。「跟隨者」基本上等如Face Book 的 "like",代表支持。當ELODOCUMENTS 有新文章發表時,您在Blogspot的文章綜合表(是Blogspot在您成為跟隨者時,自動為您設立的)將會顯示,但您不一定要查看。

衷心多謝您的支持和幫助!希望我們在ELODOCUMENTS 時常相見和交談! 歡迎鼓勵您的親友也成為ELODOCUMENTS 跟隨者。

主內,
Edmond

Thursday, March 29, 2018

生活的聖言

我們堅持跟隨教會的教導,拒絕將天主聖言「物件化」或「文字化」;拒絕將天主教信仰低貶成「一本書」的信仰。

《聖經研討會》是筆者眾多活動或課程中,最需要用時間、功夫和資源來準備的。由2002年九月開始至今,轉眼差不多十六年,這基本上一年查看一書的課程,從未間斷過。藉著天主聖神的推動,和義工們的幫助,這活動有效地發揮著福傳和屬靈培育的作用,每年登記人數都超越一佰以上。

令人興奮的是,按最新統計資料顯示,藉著《聖經研討會》網站我們每月成功地接觸到超過一仟人數的網站訪客!換言之,平均每天都有三十多人次瀏覽,收聽和採用網站資料。他們主要來自以下國家:
1. 渥克蘭(Ukraine) – 27%
2. 美國 – 19%
3. 中國(可能香港為主) – 16%
4. 加拿大 – 10%
其它順序是蘇聯、土耳其、法國、德國、荷蘭、波蘭、澳洲、瑞典等。

能夠在《聖經研討會》中一起學習和分享,一起在聖言中成長,是非常有意義的事;這也是我們舉辦《聖經研討會》的主要目的。

但是也讓我們謹記,我們在聚會中一起學習和分享的聖言,並不是一本書這麼簡單。

因為聖言在聖神默感而被寫下之前
1. 已先被宣講(如信經所說:「祂曾藉先知們發言」) ;
2. 已藉聖子耶穌基督降生成人的奧蹟、聖死和復活,全面彰顯出來;
3. 已被宗徒們按主耶穌升天前的吩咐,忠實地向萬民宣揚(瑪28:19-20);
4. 已先在初期教會團體的禮儀中用語言、祈禱、動作、標記和詩歌來表達(保祿書信常引用當時普遍被採用的禮儀),並臨現聖事中;
5. 更重要地,聖言就是天主,「在起初就與天主同在。萬有是藉著衪而造成的;凡受造的,沒有一樣不是由衪而造成的」(若1:1-3) 。

顧名思義,《聖經研討會》非常著重聖經,一切活動皆環繞聖經而展開。但是同時我們堅持跟隨教會的教導,拒絕將天主聖言「物件化」或「文字化」;拒絕將天主教信仰低貶成「一本書」的信仰。我們不但學習研究聖言,而且「常常敬禮聖經,如同敬禮主的聖體一樣」(啓示憲章廿一) ;深信這被寫成文字和保存在聖經內的聖言,在禮儀中被宣讀時,因著聖神大能而回復祂本來和獨有的功能,奧妙地成為生活的,直接向天主子民說話的天主聖言(註)。這生活的天主聖言是「從我口中發出的言語,不能空空地回到我這裏來;反之,它必實行我的旨意,完成我派遣它的使命。」(依55:11) 這「生活的,是有效力的」天主聖言「比各種雙刃的劍還銳利,直穿入靈魂和神魂,關節與骨髓的分離點」(希4:12)。

讓我們珍惜這些《聖經研討會》的歲月,在聖言內繼續成長!各位海外兄弟姐妹,請繼續支持《聖經研討會》;希望您會成為ELODOCUMENTS的跟隨者("followers"見網頁右邊點擊按键),讓我們透過它保持聯絡!

註:請參考Patrick McGoldrick, “Liturgy – The Context of Patristic Exegesis”, Letter & Spirit 7 (2011), 221-230.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The 8th Day – A New World Order

What seems like an interlude now is but the beginning of everlasting happiness and glory.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….” The famous opening line of Charles Dickens’ historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, has captivated the imagination of many a literature lover from generation to generation. The greatest English writer of the Victorian era probably did not have this Sunday’s Mass readings in mind when he penned those remarkable words. But the masterful language used to highlight the unusual social and political conditions in London and Paris leading up to the turbulent years of the French Revolution is nonetheless a fitting characterization of the same unusual times that today’s gospel reading helps to bring alive.

It is only three days ago when the disciples’ high hope of finding the Messiah suddenly comes crumbling down, shattering and falling apart like an imploding star. Jesus the Nazarene, the holy one who they have hoped would redeem Israel, is handed over by their chief priests and rulers to a sentence of death and crucifixion on the day of Passover (cf. Luke 24:19-21, John 19:14). It is truly the worst of times.

But the worst of times may well be the best of times; the winter of despair, the foreshadowing of the spring of hope. Why? What hope is left when the savior of the world has been all but relegated to the rank of crucified criminals? The good news is: Jesus is resurrected only 3 days after his crucifixion! In today’s gospel, he appears to his disciples and, seeing that incredulity has left them stupefied, invites them to check out his hands and his side. Thomas, notoriously a late person who, according to Church tradition, also missed out on seeing Mary when it was time for her to leave this world, is absent from the scene. But when Jesus returns a week later just for him, Thomas doesn’t disappoint. He responds with the strongest declaration of faith possible: “My Lord and my God!”, thus affirming the divinity of Christ.

What is the significance of the resurrection? Why do we consider the event “the best of times” for humanity? Apparently, John shares the same view. Today’s gospel from John puts Jesus’ appearance as happening on “the evening of that first day of the week”, soon after Mary of Magdala found the empty tomb “early in the morning” (John 20:1, 19). Considering that the Johannine gospel was written to contrast Jesus’ “New Creation” with the “old” creation of Genesis, the Bible scholars have good reason to believe that “the first day of the week” is John’s way to heighten the significance of the 8th day – the beginning of a new week, the week of the New Creation, following the first week, or first 7 days, in which the old world order was created. What Mary of Magdala and the disciples are witnessing, in other words, is the beginning of a new world order – the New Creation, ushered in by Jesus through his resurrection (cf. CCC2174).

Jesus’ resurrection is an unwritten statement - or a state of the union address, if you will - made by the Son of David, the “heir” that God has promised to “raise up” to sit in David’s royal throne forever (2 Sam 7:12-13), to affirm that the power of death has been destroyed once and for all, that its unrelenting grip on humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve is no more, and that the heavenly kingdom finally has come. Put simply, as Peter did in his inaugural sermon, resurrection and ascension is the coronation and enthronement of Christ the King (cf. Acts 2:29-36); not that he in his divinity as the eternal Son needs any more glorification, but that he in his humanity as the Son of David is now royally enthroned to receive dominion, glory, and eternal kingship (Daniel 7:13-14).

No wonder in the first reading the early community of believers live as though they were in their very last days, claiming no possessions of their own and sharing everything in common. For a community that sees things through the eyes of faith after the descent of the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), close on the heels of the worst of times is the joy of the best of times; mired deep in the winter of despair is the glimmer of the spring of hope. What seems like an interlude now is but the beginning of everlasting happiness and glory.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Has Christ Rendered the Old Testament Law Obsolete?

Is Christianity guilty of spurning God’s commandments in the Old Testament? Let’s turn to the Patristic writers for an answer.

The psalm of this Sunday extolls the virtues of the Law. The proclamation of the Decalogue on Mount Sinai in reading one also reminds us that the heart of the Old Testament Law is the Ten Commandments. But when people speak of “the Law”, they also refer to the ceremonial, purity, and dietary laws of the Mosaic Code, namely, circumcision, sacrifices and offerings, Sabbaths and festivals, purifications and unclean foods, and much else. As Christians, we no longer observe these laws. Given our Christian non-observance, how do we explain the psalmist’s tribute to the Law in Psalm 19? Is our non-observance a rejection of the Old Testament teachings that generally equate righteousness and piety with strict observance of the Law? More importantly, Jesus himself teaches that “until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law” (Mt. 5:18). Has Christianity deviated from Jesus’ teaching? Is it guilty of spurning God’s commandments?

To compound this perplexing issue further, Jesus himself appears to be dismissive of the Old Testament laws when he disagrees with Moses on divorce and remarriage (cf. Mt. 19:8), downplays the significance of unclean foods (cf. Mk 7:15), and heals on the Sabbath (cf. Mk 3:1-6). How do we explain this apparent contradiction? Here we have a scriptural equation that doesn’t seem to add up: the Old Testament requirement of unreserved submission to the Law vs. the New Testament teaching of Christian non-observance.

Some people believe the solution lies in accepting either the Old Testament teaching of following the Law or the New Testament position of Christian non-observance, but not both. The problem with this view is that it sees the Bible not in its harmonious whole but as a collection of conflicting books that are seriously polarized. The Judaizers took this view and disagreed with St. Paul and the early Church. In their zeal to protect the Law of Moses, they joined hands with Rome to persecute the Christians. The heresy of the 2nd-century Marcionism, on the other hand, advocated for the abandonment of the Old Testament God whose “unreasonable” moral precepts were deemed as incompatible with the teaching of the “good God” of the New Testament.

When caught in a bind like this, we Catholics always have the luxury of turning to the Church Fathers and 2000 years of Church tradition for an answer. Saints and believers before us had already encountered most of our problems. Instead of re-inventing the wheels, why not turn to them for help? The Patristic writers’ answer is complex and deeply rooted in the Scriptures. To put it all in a nutshell, they had identified different categories of law in the Old Testament books: those with universal and abiding application (usually identified with the Decalogue) and precepts necessitated by the historical circumstances of God’s people. They called the latter “the secondary legislation”. For example, the sacrificial and purity laws were imposed as a response to the sin of the golden calf (cf. Ex 32). Such laws are prophetic in nature in that they point us to Christ, in whom the Law finds perfect fulfillment. Jesus’ emergence means that the purpose of the secondary legislation has been served and thus observance is no longer necessary. (For a better understanding of the Church Fathers’ teachings on this issue, see M. Barber’s article, “The Yoke of Servitude – Christian Non-Observance of the Law’s Cultic Precepts in Patristic Sources”, in Letter & Spirit, vol 7, St. Paul’s Center for Biblical Theology.)

This Sunday’s gospel is a good illustration of the Patristic teaching above. Jesus’ aggressive actions in the cleansing of the Temple are a prophetic sign of the Temple’s imminent destruction which also signifies the passing away of the Old Testament sacrificial laws (see Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament on John 2:15). He chooses to do it when the Passover is near because the sacrificial laws of the Passover will be fulfilled by the Pascal Mystery of the Lamb of God, and the Temple replaced by the Body of Christ - the Heavenly Temple, “the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up” (Hebrews 8:2). Once we have the real Temple and the eternal, heavenly liturgy, what’s the point of continuing to follow the sacrificial laws of the Old Testament, which are but “a copy and shadow” of the heavenly realities (Hebrews 8:5)?

Friday, January 12, 2018

He Who Receives Much, Gives Much

(5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 4, 2018 Mass Readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39)

Love begets love; he who receives much, gives much. In this Sunday’s readings, we learn that God’s special grace is always followed by a special response from the grace recipient, whether willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly.

The passage from Mark is a scene of high drama: Simon’s mother-in-law, who has just benefited from Jesus’ miraculous cure, promptly rises to serve Jesus, the person who has served her only a moment ago. Similarly, St. Paul, whose persecution of the early Church was murderous and unrelenting, is somehow transformed into the apostle to the Gentiles after his miraculous conversion on the Damascus Road. His conviction to follow Christ is such that preaching the gospel is not an option to him but “an obligation”. “[W]oe to me if I do not preach it!”, he professes.

As passionate and determined as St. Paul is in preaching and even suffering for the gospel, he can’t outdo Jesus, his role model and the reason for all his missionary works. Not only does Jesus cure Simon’s mother-in-law during the day, he goes on to cure others who are “ill or possessed by demons” in the evening. According to Mark, “[t]he whole town was gathered at the door”. It must have been quite a busy evening for our Lord! But he will not give himself plenty of rest just because he has had a long day. “Rising very early before dawn”, he leaves for a deserted place to pray. On learning from Simon that people are looking for him, he decides to go to the nearby villages in Galilee to preach and heal some more. “For this purpose have I come,” he explains.

The message of this Sunday is a resounding one for me personally. It’s been more than two decades since my own “high drama” conversion. Like Simon’s mother-in-law, I was “miraculously cured” - from my pride, which for all practical purposes was like a powerful and piercing nail that had literally pinned me down to a world big enough to hold only my oversized ego. Like St. Paul, my encounter with Christ was illuminating and intense - one that worked me hard and opened my eyes to behold the beauty and wisdom of the Church’s teachings. Like both characters of this Sunday’s readings, I responded to the amazing graces that God lavished on me in a manner that surprised even myself: evangelizing and preaching the gospel non-stop for more than two decades. To this day, my passion remains unabated even as my aging body is showing signs that it’s finding it hard to keep up! Like St. Paul, I must hasten to add, “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” So many years later, this whole experience of conversion remains just as inexplicable and startling to me as when it first happened. All I can say is: Lord, how great Thou art!

But what about Job, the miserable and lost character in reading number one – the person “filled with restlessness” and for whom the days were “without hope”? We haven’t discussed him yet, have we? No, we haven’t. But, er, that sounded like me before my conversion...