Spring Cleaning on Ash Wednesday

It is a tradition to do a thorough “Spring Cleaning” prior to Chinese New Year. It is most auspicious to have a clean and organized house so as to have a great start for a New Year.   I am thinking that, perhaps, Ash Wednesday will be a perfect day for Spring cleaning! I just read that Lent is an opportunity to put my spiritual house in order.    If so, we begin to tidy up God’s dwelling place on Ash Wednesday.  Spring Cleaning on Ash Wednesday will mean that we start the process of tidying up both externally and internally. With hope, the visible sign of the state of each room in our house will give us our reality check on each spiritual focus of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Happy Spring Cleaning!

How quickly can you answer to “Do you know Jesus Christ?”

A good teacher once proposed the scenario where someone approaches me and asks,

Do you know Jesus Christ?

If you were confronted with this question, could you answer it as quickly as you would if someone asked if you know your mom or dad?

I challenge you to answer the question!

 

What would you need to give a positive response?

To say that we “know” someone, I suppose we first need to know many facts about this person. We need to know something about his physical appearance and “data”, such as his background, likes and dislikes, etc.

Indeed, we know the background of Jesus Christ from the bible. We can read about his genealogy, his birth, his human parents, his ministry, his death and resurrection, all from the Gospels.

What about his appearance?

I was checking out an old hymn, “Fairest Lord Jesus”, that is no longer in the present edition of the hymnal at my church, when I came across a blogpost by David Hamrick. In his blog http://drhamrick.blogspot.ca/2013/11/fairest-lord-jesus.html , he talked about how Jesus’ physical appearance was probably unremarkable, as Judas had to point Him out to the soldiers. Jesus was probably an “average-looking Galilean Jew.”  Yet, his inner beauty would make him be the light that shines in the darkness, and he would be “the most beautiful of all ever lived.” Hence, he is the “fairest” of all!

However, by knowing the physical appearance and facts about a person, we can only claim that we know of that person, just like how we know of a movie star because of all the pictures that we have seen and post that we have read on the internet. We will need to have intimate knowledge of the other. We can say that we know the other well only if we have had specific common experiences with the other, have private communications, be able to feel for the other, have challenged one another, respected or loved the other, etc.

I asked myself when I last communicated with Christ – the last time I talked to him, the last time I heard him, the last time I saw his glory in nature, his remarkable work in the good deeds that I witnessed. He often answered me in ways that only I could appreciate – the funny sign that I saw seemed to answer the question I had in my thoughts, the colorful bird that flew by when I was having a greyish day, etc.  I remembered feeling sad when I read about the government making medical-assisted death legal.  I felt Christ weeping when I heard about the fate of Christian martyrs and those betrayed by fellow brothers and sisters. I prayed for Jesus’ consolation as he stayed on the cross and he challenged me to be a better disciple. He gifted me with his life and I returned his love by singing praises and trying to follow his will.

So, do you have all that you need to answer the question positively? Do you know Jesus Christ?

I think I do. 

 

 

 

 

What would you put in the stocking for Jesus?

 

Jesus' stocking

 

I have been feeling particularly rushed in all the regular Christmas preparation this year.  For this short Advent season, it seems difficult to focus on what is really important.  As always, songs have a way to speak to me and make me pause.  As I was singing along to the Christmas piece “In the Bleak Midwinter”, I found myself in a sudden pause at the fourth verse:

Presentation1

 

The words made me think of my relationship with the Christ Child. The words made me think about what I would give him if I were meeting him by his crib.  For those of us who are parents, as we go about helping Santa putting smiles on the children’s faces on Christmas morning, how would you help Santa decide on what to put in the stocking for Jesus?

 

May the remaining time of Advent of yours be one filled with hope, and that your Christmas season be one filled with joy and peace!

 

“One Bread, One Body” – where did the bread come from?

According to St. Augustine, where did the bread come from?

From St. Augustine’s Sermon 272: (http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/augustine_sermon_272_eucharist.htm)

Remember: bread doesn’t come from a single grain, but from many. When you received exorcism, you were “ground.” When you were baptized, you were “leavened.” When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, you were “baked.” 

That is, we, the baptized, are baked into one big loaf of bread!

bread-306914_640

Truth and Unity

Truth & Unity

When I was at the University of Waterloo studying Mathematics, there were students and professors of all different nationalities, different skin colours, speaking different languages. No one seemed to notice that, however. It was the usual scene in the hallways and classrooms of the Mathematics and Computer building.  I only started noticing more of the diversity among the university population when I moved off campus as a graduate student.  In my building, I would meet neighbours in the elevator. They would see this Asian girl and assumed that I might not know English. I didn’t blame them.  Back then, the Oriental population in town was not that big, especially when we excluded those on the university campus.  Of course, the scene has changed drastically in the last few decades, first with the expansion of RIM (now Blackberry) and recently as the hub for startups and software companies.

The point is that, at the university, we were studying Mathematics, which to a lot of people, translated to “truths”. In Mathematics, one logical conclusion leads to another logical conclusion, no expression of personal interpretation is involved. Therefore, there is no chance of offending anyone’s cultural background or tradition, and there is no chance of breaking expectations as there were no expectations other than telling the truth! The language that all mathematicians use in their discussions on any mathematical topic is unified by a set of symbols and numbers. Mathematicians know that the relationships among mathematical structures are there to be “discovered”,  and not “created.” We may make use of properties of certain mathematical structures to create systems that we may use for our advantage in our daily lives, but we do not actually create these basic relationships. We put labels on them with our numbers and symbols and we describe them with operations like addition and subtraction. This studying of the truth, the seeking of the truth, allows the mathematics community to embrace diversity among themselves.

Now, the question that we ought to ask ourselves as Christians is:  If we all believe in the same God whom we call the “Truth”, and that our churches all help us to seek God and build our relationships in “The Truth”, why would it be difficult for some of us and our churches to embrace our diversity?

An Insight of God’s love in Math

Whenever I mentioned that I see God in Mathematics, people always shrugged and commented that one shouldn’t define God with Mathematics, or reduce God to numbers. That’s like saying one shouldn’t talk about God in their language, or describe God in words!

Mathematics is a language itself. If we believe that we are born in the image of God, then our logic that leads to the development of all languages or subjects came from the same source.  Therefore, while it is only logical that some prefers writing about God in traditional languages, I enjoy connecting our concepts of God to what I learn in Mathematics.

 

So, this morning I read a blogpost http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.ca/2017/04/099999999-is-equal-to-1000000.html that explains that 0.99999999…is equal to 1.

 

As the article suggests, thinking of subtracting 0.99999……..from 1 gives us 0.  That is, 0.00000…….   is  0.

Intuitively, our minds, however,  think of the “1” at the end of a very, very long string of “0”s in 0.000000000……

Here is the neat little insight: We can never pin point where that “1” is anymore at the end of the string of 0’s. Is there an end to the string at all? If you look at the “0”s as God’s infinite love for us that push away our sins, or how He forgives us of our sins, you will understand that the “1” sin you committed only carries in your mind, but not God’s. He forgives you when you ask for it, so why can’t you let it go yourself?

How g(x) = 1/x expresses Matthew 16:24?

In Matthew 16:24, we have

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…

This actually explains Peter’s problem when he denied Jesus three times in the high priest’s courtyard following the arrest of Jesus. He was a righteous person all along, the first one to answer Jesus as the Son of God at Caesarea Philippi, the one that Jesus handed the keys of the kingdom of heaven. However, Peter was so sure of himself that he did not believe what Jesus said he would do.  Peter trusted his own wisdom too much and had trouble denying himself.  Denying oneself is the key to be in union with Christ!

Recently, I came across a painting by Emily Carr, titled “Scorned as Timber, Beloved by the Sky”. It’s part of the Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery and can be viewed on its website. I know nothing about art and nothing in particular about this painting. However, it makes me think of how one denies his own wishes and all interruptions and just reaches out to God. As I ponder on the message of Matthew 16:24 and this painting, the mathematician in me led me to think of my kind of art, a simple functiongcomp.jpg.

The interesting fact about this function is that

the greater the x, the less is g(x).

The more proud we are of ourselves, the more we act on our own wishes and collect our gains in this world, the further we move away from God!

Now, if we were able to deny ourselves completely, setting x to 0, then we would achieve the impossible g(0). It is common for mathematicians to denote a value that one cannot fathom as infinity infinity .

As one can never divide 1 by 0, the general notation of expression of  is

g0.

The infinity seems to point at the infinite power of God, our God Almighty!

So, here it is, a simple elegant function g

that reminds me of Matthew 16:24!