The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, and the Taoist Federation of Singapore (TFS) jointly organized the Second Christian-Taoist Colloquium in Singapore from 5-7 November 2018. The theme of the Colloquium was “Christian and Taoist Ethics in Dialogue.” Seventy Christian and Taoist scholars and practitioners of interreligious dialogue mainly from Singapore but also from China, France, South Korea, Malaysia, Switzerland, Taiwan and the Vatican, took part in this event. The participants included a representative each from the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and the World Council of Churches.
The Colloquium focused on the following topics: Today’s Crisis of Ethics and Hope for Tomorrow; Taoist and Christian Responses to the Crisis of Ethics; Social Institutions and the Transformation of Human Persons; Spiritual Development and Self-Cultivation; Global Ethics and the Interdependency of All Human Beings; Fostering a United and Harmonious Society; and Emerging Orientations for Future Christian-Taoist Engagement. The program also included cultural and interreligious visits to the Taoist Kew Ong Yah Temple, the Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, and the Harmony in Diversity Gallery.
At the centre of this Sunday’s Gospel (cf. Mk 12: 28b-34), there is the commandment to love: love for God and for neighbour. A scribe asks Jesus: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (v. 28). He answers by quoting that profession of faith with which every Israelite begins and ends the day, and which starts with the words, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Dt 6: 4). Thus Israel safeguards its faith in the fundamental reality of the whole of its creed: there is only one Lord and that Lord is “ours,” in the sense that He bound Himself to us with an indissoluble pact; He has loved us, He loves us and He will love us forever. It is from this source, this love of God that the twofold Commandment stems: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. […] You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (vv. 30-31).
Choosing these two Words addressed by God to His people and, putting them together, Jesus taught once and for all that love of God and love of neighbour are inseparable; rather, more than that, they support one another. Although placed in sequence, they are the two faces of the same coin: lived together they are the believer’s true strength! To love God is to live of Him, for Him, for what He is and for what He does. And our God is donation without reserve; He is unlimited forgiveness; He is a relationship that promotes and makes one grow. Therefore, to love God means to invest one’s energies every day to be His collaborators in serving our neighbour without reserve, in seeking to forgive without limits and in cultivating relationships of communion and fraternity.
As a province with one of the largest population of Christians in East Asia, Henan has always been under the authorities’ radar. At the beginning of this year, the provincial authorities launched a campaign to persecute religious belief. As a result, numerous churches, including the government-approved Protestant Three-Self places of worship, have been sealed off or forcibly demolished.
Bitter Winter interviewed a couple that used to belong to a Three-Self church in Pingdingshan city in the central province of Henan. A few months ago, they fled to Heilongjiang – China’s northernmost province – because their hometown church and its congregation had been frequently harassed by the local government. Officials came to the believers’ houses to register their personal information, including their religious beliefs. If believers were identified, all of their government subsidies and benefits were revoked. Religious items and books found in households were destroyed or confiscated.
We know that God, our creator, is a pure and infinite spirit. But Scripture also attributes human characteristics to him. In his wisdom, God wanted to be real for his children. He wanted to be someone we could hold on to. In God’s own words to us, he has described himself in physical images. For example, Jesus described God like a “hen who gathers her chicks safely under her wing” (Lk 13:34). It seems significant, too, that there are 122 references to the hands of God.
We understand how our own hands are so important in expressing our love and care for one another—a touch, a caress, a protective hold. That image also tells us so much about God. In the creation story, God creates the heavens and earth by an act of will. However, when it comes to the gift of life, Genesis says, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness” (1:28).
The image of us being held in the hands of God is such a help in understanding how close God is to us. We even think of God as picking us up after a fall. Of course, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, used his hands to touch, to hold, and to heal. Jesus “lays his hands” on a leper (Mk 1:41). To touch a leper would be unthinkable, making Jesus ritually unclean and unable to enter the temple. But that is exactly what he did. The leper was healed.Read More »
Born toward the end of the first century, Narcissus was advanced in age when he was elected bishop of Jerusalem. Life in second- and third-century Jerusalem couldn’t have been easy, but St. Narcissus managed to live well beyond 100.
Many miracles were attributed to the saintly prelate, one of which the historian Eusebius relates: the deacons being out of oil for the lamps to be used in the Easter Vigil liturgical solemnities, the bishop bade them draw water from a well.
Pronouncing a blessing over this water, he poured it into the lamps, and it immediately turned to oil to the astonishment of all the faithful. Some of this oil was still preserved when Eusebius wrote of the miracle.
The general veneration of all good men for this holy bishop could not shelter him from evil tongues. Three incorrigible sinners, resentful of Narcissus’ strictness in the observance of ecclesiastical discipline, accused him of an atrocious crime, which Eusebius does not specify.Read More »