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...

Monday, December 4, 2017







衪的奇妙救恩 - amazing grace - 本是免费的,只要人願意,只要人承認自己不「OK」,然後真心悔改從此跟隨主,便可得到。如依撒意亞先知所预告的:「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!」(依55:1)



Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fear Not! Wherever the Head goes, His Body follows

This year, the Sunday of December 3 marks the beginning of Advent. The Church continues to prepare for the coming of the Lord, in terms of both his first coming as our Savior and his return in glory as our Judge. Those of us who have been paying attention cannot but notice the strong flavor of eschatological imminence that has characterized the scriptural readings of the recent weeks:

• Prepare well for the Lord, who will bring the resurrected ones with him upon his return; don’t make the mistake of the foolish ones in the parable of the ten virgins (2nd reading and Gospel, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time).
• Stay alert! The Lord will “come like a thief at night” (1 Thes 5:2); in his final judgement, He will hold us accountable for all the gifts that we have received from Him (2nd reading and Gospel, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time).
• On the Last Day, Jesus will judge us according to our works of charity. The righteous ones will go to his right and receive eternal life; the evil ones will go to his left and suffer eternal punishment (Gospel, Christ the King).

On this First Sunday of Advent, the imminence of the Lord’s Day takes on a new urgency. “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come,” Jesus tells his disciples (Mk 13:33). St. Paul also implores God to keep the Corinthian church “firm to the end” so that they will be “irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:8).

The metaphors used in the Scriptures to explain Christ’s second coming are many and varied. In addition to those mentioned above, the more popular ones are: stone hewn from a mountain that broke up the statue of iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold (Daniel 2); “One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13); natural disasters, wars, persecutions of Christians (Lk 21:10-28); the two beasts from the sea and the earth (Rev 13), the new Jerusalem (Rev 21), etc.

Of all the amazing images that the Scriptures use to disclose the concluding chapter of all human history – a chapter so irresistible and yet so unfathomable to the human mind – the most intriguing one is that of the Lamb being united with his bride in a joyous heavenly feast (cf. Rev 19). The bride, wearing “a bright, clean linen garment” (Rev 19:8), is ready. The Lamb, with eyes “like a fiery flame”, “many diadems” on his head, and a cloak soaked with blood on his body (Rev 19:12-13), is somehow depicted as glorious and victorious. This somewhat bizarre image, of course, is the Book of Revelation’s rendition of the sweet bridal union of the Church with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the end.

The Lamb, slain but standing (cf. Rev 5:6), has been enthroned to receive honor and glory (cf. Rev 5:6, 12; 3:21). The bride, married to the Lamb and one in unity with Him, is already a heavenly reality even if she continues to traverse in this world order as the Church and the Mystical Body of Christ. As we celebrate the beginning of another Advent season, we must, on the one hand, follow St. Paul’s advice to “stay alert and sober” (1 Thes 5:6), knowing that the final curtain of this long human drama is about to come down at any moment. On the other hand, we also must remember our one-flesh union with Christ and stay hopeful every time we receive the Eucharist. Fear not! For wherever the Head goes, his Body follows. It is the whole Christ – the Mystical Body together with the Head – that is taken into heaven. “[A]s the Head cannot be separated from the members, so the members cannot be separated from the Head,” explained Pope Leo the Great. The fact of the matter is: heaven already belongs to us! Stay in communion with the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, and we will receive “the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim 4:8)!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


今年秋天珊珊來遲。送完Jason去GO Train,回家前經 Starbucks買咖啡。巨大楓樹上金黄色的楓葉,和合著晨曦,出现在店铺特大的落地窗前。坐在窗旁的顧客,在陽光和秋葉的照射下,活像黑色的彫塑,失去了面容。他们只顧談話,不知道在這人在圖畫中的素描裡,自己扮演著重要的角色!


Monday, October 30, 2017


十八世纪時,在美國有一個年青人決定去西岸淘金,碰碰運氣。結果不枉此行,拿著一大袋金返回東岸。途經 New Orleans 看見一羣人在聚集喧嘩,很熱鬧。細看才發觉原来有人在販賣奴隷。站在台上的是一個年青貌美,非常吸引人的黑人女子。台下人羣爭相出價,並不斷用汚言穢語戲弄和侮辱她;有些人甚至公然表明買了她後,要與她好好親近。





Thursday, October 26, 2017

「你們應該效法我, 如我效法了基督一樣」(格前 11:1)

「你們成了效法我們和效法主的人, 甚至成了馬其頓和阿哈雅衆信者的模範」(得前 1:6-7)。那樣較容易做呢?承認自己是罪人, 或是為他人豎立好榜樣? 我認為後者比前者難做百倍。

要建造一座會倒塌的橋樑是很容易的, 因為這座橋的倒塌是預料中事, 它的拆毀亦是無可避免。但若果這座橋樑是用來安全地承擔繁忙的交通, 工程計算便必需準確, 建造也要嚴謹;最後要通過嚴格測試和批准, 橋樑才能開放給公眾使用。為他人建立好榜樣就像建造一座好的橋樑。要取得他人的信任或甚至被他人效法, 我們務必做到「在任何事上, 避免這職務受詆毀」, 以免我們的過失, 不管如何微細, 成為仰望我們的人跌倒的因由 (格後6:3)。保祿對得撒洛尼人的教會非常滿意, 因為他們的努力使他們堪當鄰近信衆團體的「模範」。對於自己及教會領導人,保祿的要求同樣很高, 所以他亦邀請得撒洛尼人成為「效法我們和效法主的人」(得前 1:6)。

在為《生命恩泉》當義工的這些日子裡, 上主賜給我的恩寵, 實在不能一一細數。但若果我必需挑選其中最重要的一個, 我認為是能有機會與一群真正追隨基督的人緊密地一起工作, 他們願意徹底地活出天主教信仰的決心是堅定不移的。對他們來說, 聖保祿對生活的信念 - 「生活原是基督, 死亡乃是利益」- 並不只是座右銘這麽簡單, 而是他們生活的唯一方式 (斐 1:21)。

作為一個認真追隨基督的信徒, 如果我的價值觀和生活方式, 令我在這個不斷世俗化、是非不分、逐漸遠離天主的世界裡, 感到越來越不屬於和孤立的話,在《生命恩泉》這團體裏, 我卻找到支持及友情, 使我悠然自得,如在家中。這團體由一群虔誠 的天主教教友組成, 他們聚集起來不是為了自己, 卻是為了幫助他人; 這團體緊密地聯繫在一起, 不是因為他們要退縮, 卻是因為他們要向外伸展。

這個團體也不懼怕宣認他們自己就是「基督的馨香」(格後 2:15)。正如聖保祿一樣, 他們不退避和不隱藏自己; 他們站出來公開宣揚他們的志向: 「你們應效法我, 如我效法了基督一樣」(格前 11:1)。他們真心跟隨耶穌基督的教導, 立志成為地鹽世光, 並邀請大家到他們的基地「來看看罷」(若 1:39)。當他們奉行褔傳這特別的召叫時, 他們渴望獻出自己的身體 ‐ 他們的整個生命 - 「當作生活、聖潔和悅樂天主的祭品」(羅 12:1)。他們的願望是讓聖神的大能將自己轉化:變作帶來生命和令人愉悅的芬芳, 化為引發希望和甜美怡人的清香, 成了宣講仁愛和使人安慰的氣息。這感覺是毋可置疑的; 這屬靈的魅力令人難以抗拒。在他們內, 我感受到聖善, 而聖善是有吸引力的, 使人心儀。