Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Living the Mystery

Holy Trinity Sunday Year A

Do you get a headache whenever you think or talk about the Trinity? Many of us are often caught up in the problem of numbers and mathematics – how can three be one and how can one be three? We often forget that this isn’t what the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is all about. Today’s readings give us three areas of reflection.

The doctrine of the Trinity highlights the fact that God is mystery. In the old testament, like in today’s first reading, we read about God appearing on mountain tops and speaking from clouds. Mystery here doesn’t mean that God has kept many things secret. On the contrary, God has fully revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. When we speak of mystery, we are speaking of the limitations of human knowledge. Man may have advanced in science and medicine and many other fields, but he is still unable to explain everything. This is because man is himself a mystery. Life and death are mysteries. The universe is a mystery. Suffering is a mystery. Love is a mystery. And finally God is a mystery. Learning this truth will make us more humble. Learning this truth will make us understand that we do not have all the answers to all the problems in the world. Learning this truth will allow us to depend wholly on God and allow him to take charge of everything.

The second truth which we can learn from today’s feast is that God is a God of relationships. Mystery does not mean that God keeps at a distance. Although we can never fully know or understand the depth of God’s mind, we can still have an intimate relationship with him. In fact, man was created for relationship with God. This is possible only because God chooses to come close to us. He does not come close to us by descending from the clouds. God comes close to us by becoming one of us. God the Son came into the world in order to save it. God the Son became human, became one of us, so that we might become one with God.

God chooses to come close to us because he is love. This is the third truth that we can learn from today’s feast. If there is any quality which can best describe the nature of God, it is Love. The Trinity is not a thing. It is a relationship of persons. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and this love is perfected by the bond of the Holy Spirit. That is why St. Paul reminds us that we should “grow perfect; help one another, …be united, live in peace” because we are made in the image and likeness of this God of love and peace.

If we are to be signs of the Trinity in today’s world, then we must be people who are able to live with mystery. In other words, we must remind the world that there is more than meets the eye, that there is a greater truth than that which is revealed by science – it is God. We are also called to be witnesses of the Trinity through our way of life. We must strive to build communities where we can live in unity and peace and in mutual forgiveness. When we are able to express this in our actions and words, the Trinity ceases to be a mere concept but becomes alive in each of our lives.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

没有 “我们” 与 “他们”

圣神降临 Year A

我们常用“我们”,“他们”… 来指不同的人.“我们” 通常是指与我们认同的人. 我是这组的成员. 我这一组享有共同兴趣及想法. 这一群人都是我的朋友及亲人.

“他们”常指为不属于我们同组的人们. 这些人是我们同组以外的人们. 这些人与我们有许多不同的地方 – 有不同的意见, 不同的言语, 不同背景, 或不同宗教. 而“我们”常与“他们”对立. 他们不是我们的朋友. 我们不信任他们. 我们不喜欢他们.

这通常是我们的想法. 我们常做比较. 我们常看彼此之间的不同而不认同我们之间的共同点. 我们问: “为什么要帮助英文或谈米尔文组呢?”“为什么要照顾外劳的需要呢?” “我们只需照顾我们自己就好了.”

今天的庆典提醒我们在这世界上是没有 “我们” 与 “他们” 之分的. 我们大家都是天主的子女. 我们全是耶稣恩宠的受惠者. 我们蒙召成为天主大家庭的成员. 在这天主大家庭里是不分彼此的. 贫穷的和富有的; 受过教育的和不曾受教育的; 不同语言的和不同文化的人们不被分开. 在天堂里不再有分界.

这是圣神的恩赐. 圣保禄在读经二中提醒我们说: “不论是犹太人, 或是希腊人, 或是为奴的,或是自主的,都因一个圣神受了洗. 都为一个圣神所滋润.” “神恩虽有区别,却是同一的圣神所赐;职分虽有区别,却是同一的主所赐;功效虽有区别,却是同一的天主,在一切人身上行一切事.”

这也是为什么我们不应只为我们所爱的人及朋友祈祷. 我们不应只帮助与我们亲近的人. 我们也蒙召为 “他人” – 为我们的仇敌, 为那些伤害我们的人,那些讲我们坏话的人,与我们意见相左的人,与我们不同肤色或语言的人们祈求.

这是圣神的恩赐也是圣神的挑战. 如果我们要依照圣神而生活的话,我们之间将没有偏见,仇恨和不宽恕的空间存在. 这是因为圣神是合一, 和平及宽恕的神. 复活后耶稣向他的门徒们嘘了一口气并叫他们领受圣神时,圣神的恩赐挑战他们成为缔造和平及修好团体的使者.

将来有一天, 我们会手拉手一起走向天国. 我们会听到耶稣邀请我们每一个人进入新耶路撒冷城. 如果我们现在不能面对我们的仇敌和所有我们不喜欢的人, 我们又怎能死后与他们共处呢? 在天国, 将没有分界线, 没有仇恨或不宽恕. 在那里只有和睦与爱. 当我们还生存在这世界上的当儿,让我们开始为合一及和好努力,因为天堂是今世生活的最佳反映.

今天我们也将委派我们的新教友. 这将是他们成人墓道旅程的最后阶段. 却又是另一段旅程的开始. 身为教会团体,现在是你们的责任欢迎他们并使他们感染到那份归属感. 他们现在已是教会的一份子. 一个充满活力的堂口的其一象征就是成人慕道班. 如果没有慕道者或只有少数的慕道者, 这就是说我们没有履行我们传福音的使命. 我要感谢所有的推动员和陪同员的奉献及服务. 但这不是少数推动员的责任. 成人慕道班也不只是神父的责任. 这是每一个人的责任. 成人慕道班是关系到整个堂口的成长所以它是牵涉到每一个人的. 我呼吁你们每一个人关注成人慕道班. 如果你们当中任何人有兴趣参入墓道团做推动员或陪同员请和我联络.

No 'we' or 'they'

Pentecost Year A

“We…” “They …” We often use these words to refer to different groups of people. “We” usually refers to the group which I personally can identify with. I’m a member of this group. This group of mine shares common interest and are like-minded. This group of people are my friends and my loved ones.

“They” is often used to refer to people who do not belong to that special group of ours. These people are outside my group of friends and loved ones. These people are considered different – whether it be a different opinion, a different language, a background or a different religion. Very often the “we” are against “them.” They are not our friends. We distrust them. We don’t like them.

Very often, we tend to think like this. We tend to make distinctions. We tend to see our differences rather than to recognize what is common between us. “Why are we helping the English or the tamil speaking?” “Why are we taking care of the needs of the migrants?” “We should only take care of our own.”

Today’s feast reminds us that in this world there are no ‘we’ and ‘they.’ All of us are God’s children. All of us are recipients of the saving grace of Jesus. All of us are called to be that One family of God. There is no room for division and distinction in this one family of God. The poor will not be separated from the rich. The educated will not be separated from the uneducated. People of different languages and different cultures will not be separated and placed in different rooms.

This is the gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul reminds us in the second reading: “In the one Spirit we were all baptized, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.” “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them.”

This is the reason why we cannot only be praying for our loved ones and friends. We cannot only be helping people who are close to us. We are also called to pray for the “others” – for our enemies, for people who hurt us, for those speak ill of us, for those who think differently, for those who are of a different skin colour or language. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen did exactly this. As he was being stoned by his enemies, he prayed that God would forgive them their sins.

This is the gift and the challenge of the Holy Spirit. If we are to live according to the Holy Spirit, then there can be no room for prejudice, hatred and unforgiveness. This is because the Holy Spirit is the spirit of unity, peace and forgiveness. When Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon his disciples after the resurrection, the gift of the Holy Spirit comes with the challenge to his disciples to become peacemakers and a reconciling community.

One day, we will all walk hand in hand into the gates of heaven. We will hear the voice of Jesus inviting us to enter into the new Jerusalem. If we are unable to face our enemies and people whom we dislike now, how can we possibly live with them for eternity after death. In heaven, there can be no division, hatred or unforgiveness. There is only unity and love. While we are still alive in this world, let us begin to work for unity and reconciliation because heaven is only a perfect reflection of the way we have lived here on earth.

Friday, June 3, 2011

真正的光荣 - 永生


今天耶稣祈求圣父光荣他. 他所指的光荣是什么意思呢? 光荣是否相等于受人爱戴, 受人欢迎, 赞赏和享有好声望呢? 光荣是不是被人当偶像般崇拜所赢得的钦佩呢?

当耶稣谈及他自己的光荣时,他是指他的十字苦架. 受十字苦刑, 死在十字架上就是他的光荣! 这的确是很难理解的. 十字架,耻辱,拒绝,死亡的象征又怎能同时成为胜利,光荣和生命的象征呢? 而所有的读经确实地告诉了我们这一点.

圣伯多禄是在晚年才明白这事实. 当耶稣在生时,宗徒们常为了荣誉 地位而争个不休. 他们非常关切“谁是最大?”的问题. 伯多禄本身承认耶稣是默西亚,天主子,却不能接受耶稣必须受苦而死的事实. 他甚至不能接受耶稣要洗他的脚的事实.

但在今天的读经二中, 我们可以看到伯多禄最后明白了十字架的意义及其真正光荣. 他写道: “你们要喜欢, 因为分享了基督的苦难, 这样好使你们在他光荣显现的时候, 也能欢喜踊跃. 如果你们为了基督的名字受人辱骂,便是有福的,因为光荣的神,即天主的神,就安息在你们身上.”

这就是真正的光荣. 这就是永生. 永生并不是指长寿. 永生并不意谓着没有痛苦或困难的生命. 而永生就是耶稣在福音中所说的, “认识你,唯一的真天主,和祢所派遣来的耶稣基督.”认识耶稣基督是天主所派遣为救赎我们,给我们希望及力量使我们耐心忍受一切考验和困难. 永生就是相信当我们身在考验中,天主却不能离弃我们并有光荣的神,天主的神安息在我们身上.

今天,如果,身为基督徒,你受了苦又受尽了耻辱, 今天如果为了你的信仰,你被误解和被排斥,那就听听圣伯多禄的话吧- 你不该,以此为耻, 反要为这名称 – 基督徒的名称- 光荣天主.


Eternal Life and True Glory

Seventh Sunday of Easter Year A

Jesus today prays that he may be glorified by his Father. What does it mean to be glorified? Is glory the equivalent of popularity, public acceptance, praises and a good name? Is glory being placed on a high pedestal winning everyone’s admiration?

When Jesus spoke of his own glory he was speaking about the cross. Being crucified, dying on the cross – that was his glory! This is certainly very hard to understand. How can the cross, a symbol of shame, rejection and death be at the same time a symbol of victory, glory and life? This is indeed what the readings are telling us.

St. Peter must have finally understood this truth much later in his life. The apostles, while Jesus was still with them,were always fighting over positions of honour. They were very concerned with the issue: “Who is the greatest?” Peter himself recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, but found it hard to accept the fact that Jesus must suffer and die. He could not even accept the fact that Jesus had wanted to wash his feet.

But in today’s second reading, we can see that Peter has finally understood the meaning of the cross and true glory. He writes: “If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed. It is a blessing for you when they insult you for bearing the name of Christ, because it means that you have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on you.”

This is true glory. This is eternal life. Eternal life does not mean a very long life. Eternal life does not mean a life without suffering or problems. But eternal life is what Jesus has said in the gospel, “to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. To know that Jesus Christ has been sent by God to save us gives us the hope and the strength to patiently endure all trials and difficulties. To know that we are not abandoned by God in times of trials but that we have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on us, is eternal life.

Today, if you suffer and receive all kinds of insults for being a Christian, today, if you are misunderstood and rejected by people because of your faith, then listen to words of St. Peter – you are not to be ashamed of it, you must thank God that you are called a Christian.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Leaving creates room for growth

Ascension Thursday Year A

I'm constantly surprised by the eulogies given at funerals. Some are extremely moving whilst many sound as if they were testimonies given in support of the canonisation of the deceased person. What often surprises me is that in spite of the many criticisms that you would often hear about someone while he is alive, nothing is mentioned of this when he's gone. How the death or the passing of someone seems to change everything. Even his greatest critics seemed to have only good things to say about him. Death changes everything. It is funny how we can come to appreciate someone only when he’s no longer around.

How can the leaving of a friend or a family member be also a moment of joy? Mysteriously, this is the case. Certainly, we are saddened by the loss of a loved one. But his leaving creates room for us to grow. The person leaving us, if he has been such an influential person in our lives, always leaves a part of himself or herself with us. That part can come to life only after the person has left. This is because when the person was with us, we often take his presence for granted. When our loved ones are with us, we don’t really take the trouble to reflect over the influence they have over our lives. When our loved ones are always present to us, we often only see their limitations and weaknesses but are blinded to their good points. It is only after they have left us that we begin to appreciate them for all the things they have done for us.

Jesus also understood this mystery very well. He had to leave in order that his disciples and the young church could be empowered. He had to leave because the church needed to mature. If he had physically remained with them, the disciple would always have to be dependent on him in a childish kind of way. But by Jesus’ leaving, each of his disciples would now carry on the legacy that was left by Jesus. Each would now preach and act in the way that Jesus preached and acted. Jesus’ mission has now become our mission. Jesus’ life has now become part of our lives.

But has Jesus really left us? Certainly not. He promised us at the end of today’s gospel reading: “I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.” By leaving his disciples, Jesus was actually coming back to them in a more powerful way. He would now be present to each of us through the Holy Spirit. Physically, it was not possible for Jesus to be with us at all times. It is only in the Spirit, could he be present to each of us at the same time and at all times.

Let us then pray to God as St. Paul did in the second reading and ask him to grant to us, not human wisdom, but the understanding of the mystery of the Church. May God open the eyes of our hearts so that we can appreciate the greatness of the hope that we are called to.