Thursday, 23 November 2017

Oops! A Boo Boo in What Was Said

One day after celebrating the morning Mass, a couple approached me and asked me to pray over them because it was their wedding anniversary. The wife requested me to pray especially for her because they were already married for 5 years, and despite many attempts, they had not been able to conceive. I prayed over them as requested, and wished them all the best.

Then one day, after about five months, I was invited to a party. I was having a chat with some people, when a woman approached me, with a noticeable bump in the "oven". The woman was the one I had prayed over, and she excitedly said to me: “Father, thank you so much. You know, because of you I am pregnant already!” Straight away, the people near me were shocked, some of their jaws even dropped, some with eyes bulging, there were even some gasps audible, when they heard such startling news. I looked at the woman in disbelief and bewilderment, and fortunately for me, the woman, horrified upon realising her carelessness in what she had just said, promptly and quickly explained to them that she and her husband had asked me to pray for them to have a child, and that they had successfully conceived. Upon hearing the woman's explanation, the people around laughed, some sighed in relief, and we continued enjoying the party and each others' company.

When you come to think about it. we sometimes get into misunderstanding and misconceptions, when we are not careful with words and deeds. Sometimes, our poor choice of words or unwise actions could even cause unnecessary problems for others, or even put them in a spot. May we watch what we say or do, since words once said, or actions once taken, may not be so easily retracted.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

什么是圣人?

当我们还是学童时,所接触到的圣人故事,几乎都把圣人摆在一个超乎常人的层次。他们都有异常优良的品行,有的甚至从小就具备了。也有少数的大半辈子就如我们常人一般。然而,就在一个特殊的时刻(通常是很戏剧性的一个,牵涉到一个预像,甚至有可能是被天主摔下马),他们的品行就从此变得超好。

神迹的发生、英雄事迹和探险故事,不时都显得有趣,但有一点可以确定的是:圣人们都和我们常人不一样。

在第二次梵蒂冈大公会议后,强调了讲道必须以圣言为基础,通常占据一个中心点的圣人们退出了讲道活动。同时,减少了使用教会日历,使得一些天主教徒相信,圣人们都不再重要了。他们已不再是新式天主教教义的核心。

当然,圣人一直以来都是天主教教义的核心(对东正教而言也是如此)。要了解他们的地位,我们应看看他们是如何在教会里占有一席之地,而更加重要的是他们对于我们现今生活有何意义。


ALL BAPTIZED TO BE SAINTS 凡受洗的皆可成圣

凡加入基督徒团体的人,以及尝试活出耶稣生活、死亡及复活之成果的人,圣保禄皆称他们为圣。保禄写信给不同教会的“圣人们”,就是他所谓的任何受洗于耶稣的生活及死亡的人。在保禄的看法中,圣人就是那些被圣化的人。

保禄和其他早期的基督徒不断的写信、思考,及利用大部分的时间祈祷有关基督来临的意义,因为在当时他们全心期待耶稣将会很快地再次降临。

这就是为什么保禄宗徒选择了独身主义,同时也是为何他不鼓励奴隶寻求自由。为何要如此劳神呢?就在任何时刻,天主永恒的王国将在基督光荣来临时成立。如果世界将如此继续下去,为何要结婚生子呢?当奴隶及主人都将面对凯旋归来的基督,而祂将转化所有的关系成为充满爱和宇宙化的生活,为何还要在乎自己奴隶的身份呢?


MARTYRS 殉道圣人

早期的教会后来才开始明了基督的归来,并不会如他们所想的那样快就会发生。同期的罗马帝国视基督徒为社会安定的威胁。一些有关基督徒的传闻是真的:他们的确有说奴隶和主人是同等的,女人和小孩不是男人的附属品。而另一些传言却不是真的:基督徒被指责施行人类祭献、乱伦和食用人肉。

随着很多的基督徒被囚禁起来,不少正直的男人及女人因此殉道,自我觉悟的基督徒教会进入了新的阶段。那些有关耶稣的生活与勇气,以及对祂复活所带来的希望,同时启示了基督徒及非基督徒。虽然不足以说他们见证了这个信仰(但他们的确做到了)。他们显示了他们如耶稣一样,奉献一生于天主,甚至达到了那种可导致死亡的信赖程度。

每一位基督徒都立志要对自己的信仰衷心。他们的诚心都被考验,并且皆通过了。他们就是基督临在于团体的象征。

教会开始在圣道礼仪中追思那些殉道的弟兄姐妹。(这也是把圣人的名字归入弥撒规范里的习惯的开始。)

刚开始并没有正式的过程以册封圣人。当地的教会各自纪念他们的殉道圣人。过后在较大型的教会就会祭奠区域性的殉道者。渐渐地就形成了现今册封圣人的过程。


EXAMPLES OF WHOLE-HEARTEDNESS全心全意的典范

遭受迫害的时期结束后,基督化的教导就正式被接纳为一种宗教。

在那同时,越来越多的男男女女相信,要和主的全心相遇,不能在市区里找到,他们开始单独的或组成小组的去到沙漠,只为全身投入与祈祷。这就是修会的形成,而那原本只是平信徒的活动。(主教们看到修士们的全心投入,常常因此想要压迫他们更加活跃地服务教会。这使得当时领先的一位修会会长CASSIAN 写道:“修士该当避开主教和女人,因为两者都会导致他不得安宁。)

在沙漠中的修士们提供了教会另一种全心全意的模范:那就是弃绝此生的一切身外之物,尽其所能地全神贯注于天主的临在。

当这些在沙漠的神父和姆姆的生活与教导开始有了成果,他们也开始被看待成圣人。渐渐地也可看到,要全心奉献于主是可以有很多方式的。不论是平信徒、教士、男人、女人,结了婚或单身,贫穷或富有,都可以尝试。但要注意的是,这往往都会导致富人们把他们大部分的财物捐献出去。

在这些必须性的简化叙述之下,我们可以看到圣人的概念是如何在初期教会形成。从任何一位受洗者,到一个人的死亡,可以被证明他就如我们被要求的那样衷心,又或者是某人的一生可以展现出那种全心全意。

当教会开始接纳“挂名的基督徒”,也就是那些半衷心的人,而他们成为基督徒的原因都是模糊及复杂的,就成了需要指出那些人的基督性是真实和衷心的了。在这个过程中,可清楚地看出,不止有单一的方式可事奉天主。


THE ONLY REAL HUMAN 唯一真实的人类

ST ATHANASIUS 写道:“主降生成人,为使人可近似主”。这是一个触目惊心的说法。但就如圣保禄所说的那样,“我活着,却不是因为我,而是那活在我内的基督”。或如圣若望所说的,圣言使他的追随者“有力量成为天主的孩子”。或如耶稣,祈求祂和祂的跟随者可以和天父合一。

有时我们会受惑去思考有关藤与树枝的言论,这不过是一系列美好比喻中的其中之一。其实圣言和教会的传统是非常明确的。天主的生命提供了给我们,那原是无限的,却被我们的忘恩负义设限了。我们可自由地拒绝它,或半情愿地接受它。

厄则克尔先知讲述了天主圣承诺:“为消除你的铁石心肠,并给你一颗有血肉的心”。我们认为圣人都是不同凡响的人类,甚至超越凡人。但在厄则克尔先知的光照之下,我们可能会怀疑他们不是真的人类,而我们就有如胚胎一样,也不算是个完整的人类。我们是在一种半清醒的状态,并且冷漠无情,天主到底对我们人类有何打算呢?





THEY KEPT TRYING 他们不断地尝试

然而,我们感觉到有种隔阂:我们该如何成为那样子呢?之前我曾说过,圣人看起来都异常地好。我认为我们对圣人的印象都被美化了,起用意是为启发我们,而事实上这样的帮助不大。

它的帮助不大,举例来说,圣人从不感到内疚、羞耻或对自己的过错感到极度不安。

知道圣女小德兰有忧郁症的事实,是相当有帮助的。她时常认为她所相信的一切都是幻觉。圣人常被怀疑、忧郁、在祈祷中分心、愤怒和大动肝火等问题缠身。(有时甚至是对另一位圣人如此,如刁钻古怪的圣耶肋米,就称圣奥斯定为努米底亚蚂蚁)。

能使他们成圣的原因,不是因为他们一直有良好的行为,而是他们忠心地成为天主的仆人,是那种愿意把圣洗圣事看待得非常重要的态度。当他们感到自己不够忠心,并只有少数能时常感到自己的忠心时,他们就不断的努力,相信天主会补助他们的不足。


SAINTS AND SINNERS 圣人与罪人

圣人都曾犯罪。重要的是我们该知道这一点。当我们读到亚西西的方济各认为自己是个大罪人时,我们会认为那是个不切实际的谦逊。但方济各的确是忠于事实:和天主无限的慷慨仁慈相比,只会让我们显得冷酷及卑鄙。

这不是(如一些人所想的那样)因为我们为了金钱而出卖灵魂,那是因为天主的仁慈是那么的无限,如何事物与祂相比都会显得狭小,直到它能反映出主的荣耀。伯多禄对耶稣说:“主,我是个罪人,请远离我!”但他不是因为洞悉自己的罪而那样说,而是经历了主所展现的恩赐-当他的鱼获几乎把网给撑爆了。

当然,也有很多圣人并没有被册封。我们当中可能也认识一些。重点是别把圣人当成是不平凡的基督徒,而是认真看待基督教的基督徒。

我们全都被召叫成圣,我们全部都可以成圣。圣保禄所带来的讯息,运用在现在的人们身上,仍可算是事实:圣人就是那些被人圣化的人。我们通过祈祷和圣事,还有基督教的工程,就是接纳天主生命的恩赐,并用我们全部的生命来回应祂。


Communion of saints 诸圣相通功

最后一点:非天主教徒对于我们向圣人祈祷的事感到困扰。对他们来说,几乎就是崇拜偶像。我们不是该当直接向天主祈祷吗?这不就是把人类神化了、向他们祈祷吗?这可不是小小异议。

在这里可以提出几个观点。其中之一就是天主教徒没有义务向任何圣人祈求,当然我们该向天主祈祷。

当我们向圣人祈祷时,其实是在请求圣人向天主为我们代祷。这和我请求你为我代祷一样平常不过的事。这也是我们所谓的诸圣相通功。我们可以请求圣人代祷,就如我们可以请求大家互相代祷,因为我们相信他们还活着。

当被人询问为何可以轻易地讲述亚巴郎或其他长老时,耶稣回答说:“他不是死人的,而是活人的天主。”圣人是活的-他们就是活着的最终答案。


Canonization册封圣人

册封仪式是教会当局隆重的宣布,把一位已逝教友尊封为圣,并有节日、弥撒和职务来纪念。

在早期的教会,受欢迎的称誉,将决定谁可封为圣人。在第六世纪和第十世纪之间,因为圣人不断地增加和许多的不确定性,主教们开始插手和规定册封的程序。在973年就出现了第一个由教宗发出的正面证明册封的文件。

在现今的罗马天主教会,册封圣人是教宗的个自行动,必须经过复杂的调查过程。

对东正教而言,恭敬圣人是由自治教会的主教团所授权的。不过就算没有正式的授权,也是可以接受新的圣人。

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

做刻苦和弃绝自己:确定与否?

我觉得对一些教友特别是在封斋期和星期五所实行的所谓做刻苦和弃绝自己一事感到非常可笑。有些教友认为每星期五不吃肉就是该善功的好榜样;更有一些认为,让自己在某程度上沦为潦倒无助,或是做了各种各样的牺牲,就可以讨的天主的欢心。你认为类似情况就是做刻苦和弃绝自己的行径吗?难道这种善功是拿来开玩笑?

让我先澄清我没有反对自我刻苦和弃绝自己的行径。我要提醒大家,实行自我刻苦和弃绝自己的善功,不要像在演戏那样,做个别人看,更不是自我安慰地满足自己的欲望,而是要发自内心深处,真正的忏悔己罪。

到底自我刻苦和弃绝自己的真正意义在哪里?请参阅玛16:24,耶稣说,“谁若愿意跟随我,该弃绝自己,背着自己的十字架来跟随我。”主耶稣告诉我们最终所做的一切事情,不应该是以自己的议程或是兴趣的驱使;反而要弃绝一切罪过,邪恶,骄傲,自私自利的行为,更不能为了显耀自己,要无条件地全心全意跟随祂。我们所付出的努力应该惠及大众和光荣天主;不是完成我们自己的意愿而是遵照天主的计划而进行。

总而言之,我们应该相信,期望,和高高兴兴地跟随主耶稣,更不惜付出任何代价,在任何困境和艰难中坚信祂一定会引领我们更接近祂。我们是否愿意放下一切疑惑,欲望和需要,让祂真正成为我们生命中的唯一供给者?有人认为那是不可能的,但是,天主想要的,那有不能实现的事!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

宽恕我们的罪过

过去一段时期,我时常注意到小孩们如何玩乐和互相交流。很多时候我注意到小孩们比较坦率和更容易宽恕,不计前嫌。事隔多年,我记得一群小孩正在玩游戏。突然间就大吵起来。有的很生气地说,“我不要与你做朋友了。”其他的也离开现场。奇怪的是,过了一阵子,那些小孩又在一起玩了, 好像刚才完全没有发生任何事情那样。

正当两个成年人发生口角或是出手大打后,他们是否会好像那些小孩一般那么大量和有宽容心,不计前嫌?从我的观察中,发觉成年人不是那么大量和容易宽恕。那为什么会有如此的僵局?大多的因素是在我们成长过程中,形成了爱面子或怕输的态度,更因偏见和自尊高傲的作崇,认为自己是受害者,他们就不容易放下骄傲态度,去互相宽恕。

但是,主耶稣在宽恕的课题上如何教导我们?祂很简单地教导我们宽恕犹如我们马路上的双行道,互相往来。从天主经中耶稣说,“求你宽恕我们的罪过如同我们宽恕别人一样。”在路加福音12:58-59 中,耶稣还特地提醒我们:当你和你的对头去见官长时,尚在路上,你得设法与他了结,怕他拉你到法官前,法官把你交给刑役,而刑役把你押在狱中。我告诉你:非等你还清最后的一分钱,断不能从那里出来。同时再参考这段福音:那时候柏多禄对耶稣说,“主啊,若我的弟兄得罪了我,我该宽恕他多少次?直到七次吗?”耶稣对他说,“我不对你说直到七次,而是到七十个七次。”(玛18:21-22 )这两句福音告诉我们不应该只期望得到主和别人的宽恕,而我们也要主动地宽恕别人。

当然,宽恕别人不是那么容易的事情,尤其对方已经严重的伤害了我们。但是耶稣被钉在十字架上时,祂仍然求天父宽恕兵士们:父啊,宽恕他们吧因为他们不知道自己在做什么! 有些人会辩驳说:耶稣是全能的主,当然容易宽恕别人。

但是我们不要忘记,当时的祂是以人的身份履行天父的旨意,同样是有血有肉而且是活生生的犹太人。在那种困境和苦难中,祂选择宽恕仇人,彰显出人性的美,不再报仇雪恨,不再对敌,而把自己的痛苦都献给了天父。耶稣明显地告诉我们祂的苦难经历并非什么大事。只是自私自利的我们小题大做,把芝麻绿豆般的事情大肆渲染罢了。

如今我们是否会放下一切仇恨,把骄傲,自私和偏见抛到脑后,学习宽恕和原谅?不要让一切不愉快的事情重现在脑海中,过去的就让它烟消云散,不要再让仇恨折磨自己,接受天父赐给我们的平安,喜悦和自由,彻底宽恕仇人,效法耶稣给我们的好榜样。

Monday, 6 November 2017

不能以封面来判断一本书的好坏

我对某些人感到非常好奇,当他们面对不同人时所表露出来的不同态度。举例来说:在面对高官显要时,他们是那么恭恭敬敬,笑脸常开;可是当他们遇到穿着不华丽而简陋的陌生人时,态度就一百八十度转变。不但语无伦次,更是不客气地对待他们。

如果有位穿着简陋,不修边幅的人进入圣堂,你是否会向他打个招呼,帮忙他寻找座位?那你是否会认为他不配浪费你的时间和精力,认为他不属于本堂教友? 假如你是位卖名牌东西的推销员,遇到类似的顾客,你会殷勤的招待他吗?或者觉得他不配合浪费时间,更会以为他是个小偷?可是我们常说:不要以封面来断定一本书的好坏。你所面对的人不一定是你所认为的;他可能是一位高官显要或者是被受尊敬旳人。我们时常被偏见所蒙蔽了,因此就盖棺定论地判断一个人,他,很有可能是主耶稣的化身。

我记得有位修女被派到非洲大陆某一个偏僻教区去服务。很幸运的当修女到达目的地时,受到当地的土族的帮忙而找到该偏僻的圣堂。当时,修女还怀疑那些土族的诚意。卸下一切行李后,她就步行去见该教区主教。在主教署花园里见到一位老园丁,就很不客气地问,“老人家,我想见主教,他会在哪里?”老人家抬头望了修女一眼说,“你要见主教的话 就到客厅等会儿,他会出现的。”修女就进入客厅坐下,等了又等。正在她有些不耐烦时,一个老人家,穿着主教礼服,手拿权杖,头戴高冠者出现在修女面前。修女觉得非常尴尬因为刚才太没礼貌对待该老园丁。主教微笑地对修女说,“欢迎你加入教区的服务。”一边端了杯茶给她。

因此,我们应该考虑的问题是如何一视同仁地对待他人有如对待自己的兄弟姐妹一样。如果我们能以仁义道德,尊严和友爱对待自己家人,为何我们不能以同样的态度去面对周边朋友?为何还要戴上有色的眼镜去处理人际间的关系?难道他们不是天主的受造物,并在基督耶稣内我们还是难兄难弟?

Sunday, 5 November 2017

做个有公德心的好教友

我相信每个人都会照顾自己的财物。当然我们不会滥用自己的东西,也不可能把东西弄坏。然而, 在我们之中,有多少人会照顾公共设备或确定这些设备的清洁和不损坏?更有些自私自利旳人,只管自己能够用而不管他人的方便! 就是东西损坏或不能操作时,他们都是不理不睬,视若无睹。

举个例子来说就是公厕。有些没公德心的分子竟然把一些多余的卫生纸,卫生巾或是其他硬物扔进粪盆里,结果就堵塞了通道而再不能冲走任何杂物,使到整个厕所臭气熏天。有一些分子如厕后不冲水而一走了之,余下又脏又臭粪便。试问谁敢再用那么脏的厕所?

假如一个教友染上如此要不得的坏习惯,我会很怀疑他在灵修上的造诣和他与天主的关系?其实保持洁净就是灵修上的圣洁和特点。就如我们时常听到这句话:纯洁者是圣洁的良伴。假如一个教友不能照顾自己的整洁, 那他将如何在灵修上跨前一步?

让我们每个教友都能尽一点责任,培养公德心,好好的应用公共场所里的一切设备。此外更要教导孩子们对公共设备的照顾,培养他们的公德心。万一见到公共设备损坏了,尽可能通知有关方面,希望他们能尽早解决问题,不要视若无睹。当然我们不能在公厕装上闭路电视,以免被控侵犯隐私;但是我们可以同心合力,多加留意,尽量避免破坏分子再得逞。

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

给家长的情书 – 信德篇

致亲爱的家长及将成为家长的你··

请记得你是你孩子的父母,因此你不仅要在孩子成长的过程中全责教育他们一切世俗的事, 更重要的是信仰的课题。很多时候你必须用双倍努力及牺牲时间和你的孩子一起分享圣言。 当我们和孩子一起分享圣言时就是最好的机会让孩子看到我们如何爱天主好让孩子效法我们。

为了可以解开你日后会面对的痛苦和烦恼,请容许我先给你一些启示, 让你能够采取适当的措施和预防来避免它们发生在你的身上, 毕竟预防胜于治疗。

每过一段时间, 我都会进行基信团家庭拜访和到其他场合里。当我拜访一些家庭时, 发现年长夫妇或单亲家长有时会被独自留在家中。我会问他们的孩子去了哪里? 往往他们会骄傲的告诉我他们孩子的成就及拥有高尚的地位或收入,他们的孩子住在国外、外地或住在不同的高尚住宅区。

我问他们孩子有回来探望他们吗? 他们回答说有些孩子会一个月回来探望一次, 有些有长假才回来, 有些一年一次,有些不常回来等等; 最常听到的借口是孩子们生活非常忙碌,没有任何空闲时间做其他事(福建语, “Boh Eng” 或忙碌,没有闲暇时间)。 有些年长夫妇会向我抱怨他们的孩子不再学习自己的信仰,或没有到教堂参加弥撒,或更可悲的是已经遗弃了自己的信仰及信从别的信仰尤其是通过婚姻。

我微笑地对他们说你们曾经供给或强迫孩子进行一些自己认为需要或可能需要的活动以便能让孩子将来的生活变得更好(如补习、运动、音乐), 你们的孩子为了精通这些活动花了很多的时间。可是,你和你的孩子用了多少时间去分享圣言认识天主及参与主日弥撒呢?他们常常说他们没有时间和家人一起祈祷或一起分享圣言或参与教会一切活动。 补习班、钢琴、游泳、舞蹈班及其他世俗的活动往往比任何事更重要, 有些家长很怕输(Kiasu), 他们甚至能够把2至3岁很年幼的孩子送去上语文课程、音乐课程或一些脑开发课程,他们希望他们的孩子能够比别人更快学习,超越别的孩子, 因此,关乎信仰的活动就被弃在一旁了。

“一起祈祷的家庭会聚在一起”我告诉他们这个想法很简单。你们都知道孩子不可能用5分钟的时间去精通那些活动,他们需要用很长的时间。如果你只用区区5分钟(或更少) 和你的孩子分享圣言, 你认为可以帮助你和你的孩子认识天主和祂的旨意吗?(例如: 家长对孩子的责任、孩子对家长的责任、对别人的态度及了解违反天主旨意和责任的结果)。 当然不能!俗语说熟能生巧,不只是世俗的事,尤其是信仰相关的事更需要花时间去培育。

很多父母都会承认他们的错误,不过已经太迟了。 国语俗语说:“Nasi sudah jadi bubur。”英语俗语说:“It is no use crying over spilt milk。”我为他们祈祷也叫他们向天主祈求宽恕, 因为他们把他们的孩子推向世俗的事令孩子屈服于世俗的需要,他们的所作所为忽视了他们作为父母对子女的责任,没有把子女教育成为天主的儿女。

因此,家长们。。。你们会怎么做呢? 请记得,“ 我们现在所忽略的一些小事,在未来会是一个很大的挫折,甚至可能会在精神上伤害我们。”让我觉得可笑及困惑的是,有一些家长要求及期望教会里的信仰教育老师必须更专业地去教导他们的孩子认识信仰,很明显的是这些家长根本是把责任推给别人。 为何身为家长的你们不摒弃漠不关心、‘无所谓’或‘我不管’的懒散态度, 开始履行你们身为家长的本分教育你们的孩子呢?

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Do You Know Where You're Going To?

Do we realise what is happening when we sin and refuse or neglect to seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of reconciliation? Consider this... when we sin, it seems as if we are forming a chain of filth and venom around us. As we go along in life, the chain would increase in size, weight and length: a result of as we sin, as we neglect to do what we are supposed to do, as we show indifference towards others, as we fail to do what is right, as we allow laziness and "don't care" or "tidak apa" attitude to fester, and much more.

Soon, the chain begins to suffocate us, wrap our soul with "God-repellent" properties, make us numb towards fear of God, causes us to be drunk in our senses which then makes us unable to differentiate what is right and wrong. Then we may find ourselves imprisoned in sin, seemingly difficult to free ourselves as we may be too ashamed or obstinate or not bothered to seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of reconciliation.

Of course, such a chain can be broken. We can free ourselves from its snares. All it takes is to be humble and promptly, regularly and willingly seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of reconciliation. Just as we find it repugnant to take a bath only once a week, we should be finding it equally repugnant to allow our souls to remain stained in sin for too long.

So ultimately, the ball is in our court. God is merciful, compassionate and patient. He is beckoning us and offering us many chances to return to right relationship with Him and with others. We choose to grow closer to God, or to alienate ourselves from Him. May we not, when the end comes, find ourselves in an unfortunate and terrible situation, where "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out."

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Love Letter to Parents - Matters of Faith

Dear parents and parents to be...

Remember that you are parents to your kids, and that you are fully responsible for bringing up your kids not only in worldly matters, but especially also in spiritual matters. There are times you need to double your efforts and make sacrifices to be with your children to share the Word of God. Spending time on the Word of God with your kids is among the many opportunities you have to show your love of God, and your kids to follow your example.

To spare you the anguish and agony of what may come to pass one day, allow me to enlighten you on something which should be addressed early, so that you can take the necessary steps and precautions to rectify it before it happens to you, since prevention is better than cure.

Every once in a while, I visit families in BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities( and during other occasions. When I visit some families, elderly couples or single parents are sometimes left alone at home by themselves. I enquire them where are their children? The first thing they proudly talk about is the children's achievements and high status or income; and that many of their children stay overseas, some in other cities, some staying in different affluent or high-society areas.

I ask them do they come and visit? They reply that some of their children only come and visit once a month, some during long holidays, some once a year, some rarely, etc.; and the often heard excuse is that their children are so busy with their worldly lives, that they supposingly have little time for anything else (in Hokkien, "Boh Eng" or 忙碌, 没有閑暇時間 in Mandarin - which is translated as busy, no leisure time). Some of these elderly couples even lament that some or even all their children no longer practice their faith, or hardly go to church, or worse still, have abandoned their faith altogether and even joined some other faith, especially due to marriage.

I smile at them and tell them that you have given or even forced your children with all they need or might need to make their worldly life better in the future (tuition, sports, music), and that they spend hours in such activities in order to master them. But how much time do you and your children spend together with God by sharing the Word of God and participating at Sunday mass? They often say that they all have no time to pray family prayer together, or share the Word of God together, or even get involved in various church activities. Tuition, piano, swimming, dancing lessons, and many other worldly activities seem more important, and some parents are so kiasu (scared or don't want to lose), that they even have the audacity to send their children, in some cases children as young as 2 or 3 years old, for language classes, music classes, or some form of mind enrichment class, with hope and expectation that their children would have a head start in life or be one up over others, and as a result, faith-related activities seem to take a back seat.

I tell them that the idea of the "Family that prays together stay together" is very simple... You know very well that spending 5 mins in activities won't help your kids to master them, that's why they spend hours doing so. Then by spending barely 5 mins (or even less) with your kids to know the Word of God, will it help you or your kids to know God and His commands (such as responsibility of parents to kids, kids to parents, how we treat others, and the consequences of neglecting such commands and responsibilities)? Of course not! Since practice makes perfect, not only when it comes to worldly matters, but especially so in spiritual matters.

Many of them acknowledge their mistake, but by then it's too late. In Malay, "Nasi sudah jadi bubur." In English, Ït is no use crying over spilt milk." I pray for them and ask them to pray and ask for forgiveness from God, for pushing their children until they become accustomed to being slaves or subservient to worldly needs, and in doing so neglect their responsibilities as parents towards their children by bringing them up in Godly ways.

So parents... what would you do? REMEMBER; "little things we neglect now, become our biggest downfall in future, and may even mortally wound us spiritually." I find it amusing and baffling that, some parents demand and expect teachers of Religious Education in our Churches to be so dedicated about guiding their kids in Faith, and such parents themselves merely wash their hands off such an important duty. Why can't you parents cast aside your indifference, "tidak apa" or "don't care" attitude, and laziness, and do what you, as primary educators of your children, are supposed and expected to do?

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Self-Denial: Sure or Not

I find it interesting and amusing to observe how some go about practising some form of self-denial, especially when it comes to Fridays, or even the season of Lent. Some seem to think that self-denial merely means that one must abstain from eating meat on Fridays, and they feel very good about themselves for doing so. Some think that self-denial means they must make themselves miserable in different ways, and make all sorts of sacrifices, as if doing such things would appease God. But are these what self-denial is all about? Do we practice self-denial just for the sake of doing it? Are we really practising self-denial, or we actually "gluttons for punishment"?

Now before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I am against self-denial, no I am not. What I am getting at is when we begin to treat self-denial as a form of outward show, or "sandiwara" or "wayang" (Malay words meaning "putting on an act" or "putting on a show"), where we do it merely to get attention, or to appear to be pious or "holy," or even as a form of self-gratification.

So what does self-denial really mean? In Matthew 16:24, Jesus reminds us: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." What Jesus is telling us is that ultimately, all that we are and all that we do must be not to please ourselves, or to drive our own agenda or interests. Instead, we should be denying anything which is sinful, evil, selfish, self-centred, egoistic, making oneself proud or glorifying oneself. We should be following Christ wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, without terms and conditions. Our efforts should be for the good of all, and for the glory of God. "My way" should give way to "God's way" as our motto in life.

So, when all is said and done, we deny ourselves when we follow Christ with trust, hope, joy and gladness, without fearing the cost, danger and suffering, knowing that He will lead us and guide us closer to Him. Are we willing to cast aside our doubts, our desires, our wants and needs, and let Him be our true providence? Not easy, some may say, but with God, nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

Over the years, I have observed how children play and interact. I noticed that, in quite a number of cases, children seem to find it so much easier to forgive and move on. For example, I recall some children playing a game. All of a sudden, a quarrel happens and some children walk off in a huff saying, "Hummph! Don't want to friend you!" The funny thing is, after a short while, these children come back together again to play, as if the quarrel or incident that had just happened, had not occurred in the first place, or that it was nothing or not a big deal.

What happens when adults get into a quarrel or even a fight? Are adults able to forgive and move on just like how children do? Quite likely I observe adults finding it tough or even impossible to forgive and move on. Why is this so? It is precisely because some of us have developed a big ego or swelled-up pride as we grew, and together with prejudice and possibly a "kiasu"or "don't want to lose"attitude, we refuse to apologise when we are in the wrong, or refuse to forgive when others have wronged us. Some of us also may have developed low self-esteem, and think that we are the victim and others are the oppressors, causing some to be unable to forgive.

But what did Jesus teach us about forgiveness? Jesus simply taught us that forgiveness is a two-way street. In the Lord's Prayer, we are reminded: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Jesus even warned us, "Make every effort to reconcile with your adversary while you are on your way to the magistrate. Otherwise, he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and the officer may throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last penny." (Luke 12:58-59). Also, we are reminded: "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!" (Matthew 18:21-22). What this means is that we must learn to forgive others, just as we petition God to forgive us. We cannot expect to only receive forgiveness from God or from others, if we ourselves are stubbornly refusing to forgive.

Of course, it is not easy to forgive, especially when the other has hurt us so bad. But if we recall clearly, Jesus, even on the cross, chose to say, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." Some of us may argue: "But Jesus is God, and surely that makes it easy for Him to forgive!" But we must remember that Jesus is also a man, and even in human limitations and weakness, He chose to show us an example by forgiving, instead of remaining hostile, holding grudges, or even keeping the bitterness inside. Jesus shows us that, like children, the issue at hand is actually not a big deal after all. It is we who make what seems to be a molehill, into mountains.

So the question is... are we willing to set aside our pride, prejudice and ego, and learn to forgive? Or have we become so entrenched with anger, insecurity, hatred and fear, that we become so easily hurt and unforgiving? Why do we allow ourselves to be snared or eaten up by unforgiveness, when God is offering us peace, happiness and freedom when we forgive?

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Judge Not A Book By Its Cover

I sometimes wonder whether some people are aware of the double standards they practice, especially when they deal with different kinds of people. For example, when they are in the presence of a dignitary or some important person, they behave so pleasantly and sweetly. But when they come across a person who appears to be unkempt, or poor, or dressed in a simple manner, how would they behave? Some may look at such persons with suspicion, or have a haughty attitude, or even behave in a rude and demeaning manner towards the other.

For example, if you see a person who appears to be unkempt or dressed in a simple manner entering the church, would you make it a point to greet the person, or even offer some assistance? Or would you think that such a person has no place inside the church, or even think that such a person is is up to no good? Likewise, if you are a salesperson selling branded goods, and you see such a person browsing through such goods, would you offer your services, come what may, or would you ignore such persons, thinking that they are not worth your time, or even watch such a person closely, thinking that such a person could be a thief?

But the reality is, never judge a book by it's cover. The person you are dealing with may not be what he or she seems to be, since there may be more than meets the eye. A person may appear to be unkempt or even dressed in a simple manner, but sometimes such persons may turn out to be far more important or significant than we perceive through our prejudiced and coloured eyes. In fact, the person may even turn out to be Jesus in disguise.

I remember a story an elderly padre shared with me some years back, of a religious sister being posted to some remote parish in a diocese in some part of Africa. When she arrived, she managed to find her way to the remote parish, with help from some natives, whom she viewed with some apprehension. After putting her bags into her room, she went to present herself to the bishop, whose residence was just a walking distance away from the parish. Upon arriving at the bishop's residence, she came across a gardener near the entrance, and said to him: "hey old man, I am here to see the bishop. Where can I find him?" The gardener looked at her and said: "You want to see the bishop? Just go into the house and wait at the living room. He will meet you shortly." The sister went in and waited, and waited. She was getting pretty impatient, when an old-looking man came into the living room, dressed in full regalia, with mitre, staff and ceremonial attire. The sister was shocked to discover that the "old man" she had spoken to, in a rather rough manner, was in fact the bishop, and she felt embarrassed and sheepish. The bishop just grinned and welcomed her to his diocese, and even offered her some tea.

So the question we need to ponder is this... Are we able to treat everyone equally with compassion, dignity, mercy and love? Or have we allowed our pride, ego and prejudice to colour our vision and thoughts? Are we willing to behave truly as brothers and sisters in Christ, or do we choose to remain biased in our attitude and behaviour?

Friday, 21 July 2017

Be a "Common" Carer

I believe most of us know how to take care of our personal belongings. Surely we would not want to abuse or excessively use our stuff, to the point that it breaks down, becomes damaged or less usable, or even to the point of it becoming so severely impaired that it can no longer be used.

However, I wonder how much care do we take towards items or facilities which are for common use. Do we ensure that we do our part to keep the facility or item clean and in working condition? Or have some of us become so self-centred or not the least bit bothered, couldn't care less about others and using such items or facilities as we please, and should there be a problem with such items or facilities, have we become so indifferent and leave the item or facility in a deplorable state?

One example of how some of us have become disgustingly indifferent towards common items or facilities are the toilets. I marvel at how some could be so inconsiderate in throwing excessive amounts of tissue, sanitary pads, or even hard items into the toilet bowls, causing the toilet bowls to clog. Some even don't bother to flush or clean the toilet bowl after they have done their "small" or "big" "business," leaving behind a trail of urine or faeces (that's "shit" or "poo poo" for those of you who do not know what "faeces" mean). Yucks! So disgusting and repugnant! And yet, there are some who seem to be disgustingly recalcitrant, preferring to leave behind their "droppings" for all to see.

If such persons have such attitudes when it comes to common items or facilities, one wonders what sort of attitude such persons would have towards their spiritual lives or relationship with God. After all, being clean is a sign of spiritual purity or goodness, as in "cleanliness is next to godliness". If one cannot be responsible in caring for what is meant for common use, I wonder how one could be just as responsible in caring for one's spiritual progress.

May we do our part in not only keeping such common items or facilities clean and operational, but also teach our children and others to do the same. Should we come across common items or facilities which need repairs, may we not look the other way, but notify the relevant authorities so that, hopefully, such common items or facilities would be fixed accordingly. Of course, catching such persons who commit such reprehensible acts towards such common items or facilities is certainly not easy, since we may not be able to install surveillance equipment, especially when it comes to places like in the toilet, but let us be vigilant, with hope that we would collectively and effectively reduce the possibility of such crimes from happening again.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

PhD or phd or PHD?

Every once in a while, I come across people who claim to be intelligent or learned, even to the point of achieving high academic status, and yet the person's attitude, character and behaviour seem to render one's intellectual capabilities irrelevant, or even to the point of being obnoxious. Perhaps some of you may have come across such a person or persons before, who may have a PhD, but who may actually be more of a phd or PHD.

Now some of you may be wondering... What difference is there between the three? After all they use the same letters, except for the fact that some are in uppercase and some in lowercase. So what's the big deal here?

Perhaps, if I may, clarify what the three acronyms mean, then you may get my drift:

PhD - A Doctorate in Philosophy, usually the highest level to be achieved in academic circles.

phd - permanent head damage, as in the situation some individuals around us may be experiencing, either physically or in one's attitude or behaviour.

PHD - this is where it may get interesting, where PHD stands for:
P: Prasangka - prejudice or preconception
H: Hasad - envy
D: Dengki - jealousy

When one has become consumed with PHD, one becomes easily prejudiced towards others, envious towards other people's abilities and even jealous towards other people's good works or efforts. This could cause one infected with PHD to resort to unsavoury or extreme measures to put down the other, or even destroy the other's reputation, or even to the point of committing character assassination, in an effort to puff up one's image, pride and ego. The question is... would one ever be content or happy; or would one end up excessively fearful of one's shadow, or petrified that the next corner may reveal more so called "enemies" to be dealt with? Would one fall into the abyss of insanity, obsessed in protecting one's image and status at all cost?

So how do we prevent ourselves from falling into the snares of PHD? In a word: humility. When we embrace humility, we begin to realise that we are not the ultimate and that is okay. We realise that the world does not revolve around us, and we come to understand that we are merely pilgrims, contributing in whatever way we can for the good of all, and for the benefit of generations to come. Are we willing to let humility flow throughout our veins, or have we allowed the rot of PHD to overcome and engulf us in its treacherous grasp?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

四旬期是教友反省的好时期。

四旬期对我们有何意义? 有些教友认为要守大小斋,有些认为每个星期五参加拜苦路 或是去任何圣堂办告解圣事。这些都是很好的虔诚心,不过是外在的表现而已。如果在四旬期只是这些表现, 那么我们将会失去渡过四旬期的真正意义了。其实四旬期教导我们如何与天主和周遭的人达至和好的关系,因而让我们能进一步得到内心的悔改,心灵的洁净。除此之外,我们该反省一下:到底上述的四旬期活动或节目是否足够?或许在四旬期里,我们需要重新注意以下三项事情:祈祷,守斋和行善。虽然听了很多篇但是真正了解的教友们可能是寥寥无几。

当我们祈祷时,我们因该和天主建立更好的关系。很多教友对于念玫瑰经,慈悲串经或是敬礼耶稣圣心经文都已背的滚瓜烂孰;但是这些经文都是传统祈祷,因此教友们只是习惯孰念而没有体会其中的意义,更何况要和天主建立良好的关系?祈祷应该让我们和天主的关系更接近,不只是口中念念有词,心思云游四海的方式。

守斋并非自残身心或是为了要达到减肥的目标。我们守斋因为渴望天主,让他成为我们生命中的动力。守斋也让我们体会到生命意义和价值,同时引导我们远离罪恶的诱惑,避免遍情私欲。守斋也帮助我们不要贪婪,更要关心别人的真正需要。

每个人行善的目的是关心不幸的群体或是穷人,因为我们都是天主的子女,受造物;万物都由他而造成的。因此不应该把资源或食物占为己有,应该了解到人比物质更重要。

让天主在我们日常生活里增进祈祷的素质,也引导我们更谦虚和慷慨与穷人分享物质和资源;不自是空谈守斋而已,而是要如何与天主拉近关系,让祂指引同祂走向康庄大道。这些好习惯不只在四旬期得以表现,更要长久的实行,让别人看了也能彰显我们在基督内是兄弟姐妹,让他们也赞扬,感谢天主的伟大,慈悲与善良。

Monday, 6 March 2017

有关将临期或四旬期举行忏悔礼仪时的点点滴滴。

在过去所举行的忏悔礼仪中,我发觉到一些重复又重复的事情值得我们去探讨和改进的:
  1. 预早到教堂:通常为了办个好告解, 教友必须有充分的时间去准备,更何况教友对远方来的某某神父有所选择时,他们可能因迟到而不能见到该神父来办告解,那是多么可惜的事!
  2. 假如小孩也在参与时,请你们或是可靠的朋友轮流看守他们,以免小孩到处乱跑而干扰其他教友准备办告解,祈祷或是默想。
  3. 告解时要简要。神父们想知道的是你犯了什么罪而不是听你讲故事或是罪的源由。
  4. 所告的是自己的罪不是他人的。有些教友所告的并非己罪而是诉说丈夫,太太或是孩子们的不是。因此不合逻辑。
  5. 告解前要谨慎反省所犯的罪过,才不至于遗漏严重的罪过。
  6. 在告解过程中,由始至终都要保持冷静, 不要受其他事物的干扰。
  7. 秉持谦虚礼让的态度。这种品德尤其是在泊车或排队办告解时,更是不可缺少;重要的是不要因你的鲁莽无礼而使他人犯罪。例如把车子泊在格子里而不是泊在两格中间,让后来者也有地方停车而不至于他们怒气冲冲的进教堂。
  8. 切记告解的程序。当然神父会引领你办告解的程序假如你忘了。为了避免浪费他人的时间,最好记得告解程序。
  9. 切记控制自己的情绪。可能有些教友在生活上受到很大的创伤和刺激,告解时不免会情绪失控。但是,告解厢不是咨询的场所。如果教友面对类似的情况时,最好是先寻找咨询专家。
  10. 告解后找个清静的地方祈祷默想。过后静悄悄地离开,让别人也可以有泊车位而去办告解, 因为一些堂口的泊车位有限。
当然还有其他的琐碎事情不在本文中一一列出,但希望教友们多多注意以上各事项,让大家一起建立更理想的告解环境,希望藉此也能促进彼此间在灵修上进展。

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Season of Lent: A Reflection

What does the season of Lent mean to you? Some of us think about abstinence and fasting on certain days, some think about the Way of the Cross which is usually held on Fridays during Lent, some even think about making a confession at one of the churches having penitential service. All these appear to be good practices, but these are merely external practices of piety. If we get caught up with only such external practices, we may end up losing the whole point of Lent, and that is to lead us to reconciliation with God and with each other, and eventually lead us to an inner conversion.

The question is, are these practices already mentioned enough? Or is there more to these practices than meets the eye? Perhaps we need to relook at three practices which we often hear about especially during Lent, but we may not have fully comprehended or understood what they mean. The three practices are prayer, fasting and giving alms.

When we speak of prayer, we are talking about establishing a closer relationship with God. Sometimes we may have become so used to rattling out prayers such as the rosary, the divine mercy, prayer to the Sacred Heart, or some other form of devotion, that our prayer is prayed out of habit or out of a tradition that was passed down to us from our elders. But by praying such prayers, are we really growing closer to God? Prayer should change us and lead us to trust more in God and to place our lives in His control. Are our prayers enabling us to do so? Or have our prayers become a form of babbling, saying so many things but without meaning?

When we speak of fasting, we are fasting not because we want to torture or punish our bodies, and fasting is not meant to be used as an excuse or a means to lose weight. We fast because we want to thirst for God, and place God first in our lives. Fasting helps us reconsider our values in life, and guides us to reject and deny the lures of temptations, especially to satisfy our own wants. Fasting sets us free from greed, and makes us more sensitive to the needs of others.

When we give alms, we do so not because we pity the poor or those who are less fortunate. We give alms because it reminds us of the need to be in solidarity with all, especially with the poor. Giving alms reminds us that all things come from God, nothing really belongs to us, and thus we should not cling on to these things selfishly. Giving alms remind us that people are far more valuable and important than things.

Let us take courage and let the Lord help us deepen our prayer life, and help us to be humble and docile in our fasting and also in our generosity to share with the poor. Let us do these things not because they are merely external practices, or to show off, but because we want to grow closer to God, walk in His ways, and let Him be our providence and guide. Let us not only confine such practices during the season of Lent, but throughout the year, so that others may truly see and give thanks to God, on what it really means to be brothers and sisters in Christ.

BO and MO during Confession?

Among the many challenges a padre has to put up with when it comes to confession, one which is just as potent and potentially pengsan-able...