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...


Monday, December 4, 2017

我們信主不是因為我們自覺做得好,反而是因為自知做得不好。

「你們該效法我、像我效法基督一樣。」(格前11:1)

我的好友是一位很好的基督徒,像保祿般,是值得我效法的好榜樣。他努力地在真理和美善中生活,務求「活出基督」,這也是基督徒應具備的態度。

但同樣重要的是:我們信主不是因為我們自覺做得好,反而是因為自知做得不好,明白自己軟弱,自己重罪,自己是個大罪人。正因這真心的觉悟,所以尋求主的救助。(所以不要笑一些信主的人做得不好,若他们盡力真心追随主,在主眼中,他们也是很可爱的。)

不幸地,世人多数不觉悟。有些固然覺得自己無瑕可指,更致命的是絕大多数的人都認為自己「OK」,自問自己都算是「好人一個」,只要「不害人」,「行得正企得正」,無理由最终不能「側側身」入到天堂。

其實,天主是完全美善的。天堂是天主永恆臨在之地,也是完全美善的。人無論多好人,都擺脱不了罪的沾染,總有瑕疵。所以,人若沒有「外助力」,永遠不能進入天國。基督救恩就是這「外助力」,所有人都需要它。

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)

但人就是这样,免费的東西不值錢,也放不下驕傲的心(我做得不錯吖!)和生活上「多姿多彩」和「更重要」的事情。結果經年纍月地活在迷失之中,直至有一天噬臍莫及.....。

這主日是「將臨期」的開始,我們一方面慶祝主耶穌降生成人,來臨世間的奧蹟;另一方面亦期待祂光榮再來,審判生者死者,為人類歷史,帶來圓滿總結。今天福音的訊息是「醒寤亅。(「你們要當心,要醒寤,因為你們不知道那日期什麼時候來到」(谷13:33)。)就讓我們真心悔改,清楚看見自己不「OK」而好好準備好自己;保持醒寤,以免基督來到時,自己仍在失落之中而不能自拔!