20110331

Over 140 mouths to feed


This man used to be a chef, but in this photo he is cooking for some four-legged hairballs in his house rather than customers in a restaurant.

Mr Li Zongwen looks after more than 140 stray and abandoned dogs in his home in Wuhan, China. These dogs were rescued from the streets on the outskirts of the city. The fact that these "stray and abandoned dogs" look so neat and nice not only shows how they are well taken care of by Mr Li but also how well off the people in China must be. Taking care of so many dogs is no small task. Food and rent cost over USD770 per month (which is covered by donation), and dealing with the poop must be a nightmare.

Imagine having to walk all of them every day.

20110330

Haiku - an acrostic

give me an 'n' word
for this little acrostic
for my wife's dead friend

20110329

Pathological Pet Owner Dumps Patrick



A picture paints a thousand words. The highly disturbing pictures above say it all. They show the horrible state the dog Patrick was in after he was found by a maintenance worker in a garbage bin in Newark, New Jersey on 16 March.

Normally, the contents of the garbage bin, which is at the bottom of the building in which Patrick, as the dog was later named, was living, are sent directly into a garbage compactor, but that day the maintenance worker noticed a bag moving, opened it, and found a dog inside. The dog was pathetically thin and on death's doorstep.

There are garbage chutes on each floor of that building. According to a report on the website of Associated Humane Societies, someone had no more use for the dog, had starved it to near death, put it in a garbage bag and threw it down the garbage chute.

Patrick was just barely living. "His eyelids were moving a little, but he was just lifeless - his body hung there when we picked him up," Monmouth County animal control officer Arthur Skinner said.

Fortunately, after a few days of being taken care of, Patrick is slowing becoming more than skin and bones. He is able to sit up and walk and eat canned dog food.

It is definitely a criminal offence to abuse an animal like that. I definitely wish that when the urgent task of saving Patrick is accomplished, the next important one of bringing the culprit to justice will take off.

Hang in there, Patrick. You'll make it!

20110328

This One is for Christchurch!



While I admit that I was gutted to see my favourite sevens rugby team Fiji dumped out by New Zealand in the Cup Semi-Final of this year's Hong Kong Sevens, I was nonetheless happy that the Kiwis became eventual champions, beating England by 29-17. One of the players said that they had tried hard to win the tournament as they wanted to dedicate the victory to Christchurch.

You did it, Kiwis. Well done!

Japan, another nation hard hit by earthquake, didn't do so well though. They lost to Canada in the Final of the Bowl Championship. It must have been difficult for them to prepare for and play in this tournament at a time like this.

20110327

The Fukushima 50


Whenever tragedies strike, especially those of the magnitude of this one in Japan, the question invevitably comes up as to why such tragedies befall so many innocent people and shatter their lives, why a God who is supposed to be just and benevolent should allow it, or even whether such a God exists at all.

There is no easy answer, certainly not for those who have been so afflicted.

I think perhaps one possible reason, a painful but poetic one, could be for the valliant Japanese people to show the rest of the world, especially those in the neighbouring nation who selfishly and senselessly scramble to panic-buy products that they foolishly believe can protect themselves from radioactivity, how to live a worthy life against all odds.

The "Fukushima 50", those heroes who were fully prepared to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others, deserve the respect of the whole world and have taught us the true meaning of love, honour and courage.

"The future of the nuclear plant depends on how we resolve this crisis," one of the volunteers, a man who had worked for an electric company for 40 years, was reported to have told his daughter. "I feel it's my mission to help."

Such a commitment is never an easy one for these heroes, and it is certainly much less so for their loved ones. It must be very difficult for the families, not only because of the unknown immediate dangers these men are facing but also because of the problems that might result in years ahead.

"I didn't want him to go," one man's wife told a Japanese paper. "But he's been working in the nuclear industry since he was 18 and he's confident it's safe."

The "confidence" may just be something the man expressed to make his wife feel better. In any case, such courage has won them the admiration and gratitude of their people. "They are sacrificing themselves for the Japanese people," said a citizen in Tokyo. "I feel really grateful to those who continue to work there."

So best of luck, heroes.

20110326

Before I die

The recent calamities and tragedies in different regions of the world, especially New Zealand and Japan, may have prompted many people to put life into perspective. I myself have been thinking about what I would like to do before I die.

American artist Candy Chang started a project with an abandoned house in New Orleans in her neighborhood. She transformed it into a chalkboard where people may complete the sentence "Before I die I want to ..." on the wall. Once the wall is filled, she cleans the board so that others can finish their sentences. She documents the sentences and will include them in a book.

What would your sentence be?

20110325

The Never-Ending Quest


Having written yesterday's blog entry, in which I commented on the article talking about the prediction of religion becoming extinct in nine nations, I have to say that, as someone with a strong Christian faith, I am never so pessimistic. No mathematical model will ever be able to adequately fathom the power and mystery of God. While at some stages we may go astray like lost sheep, God's love, which is manifested through Jesus, will bring us home. And just as there are those who turn their back on God, there are also those who fervently seek Him. As Bruce Feiler wrote in his book Walking the Bible: "What was important, I realised, was the ongoing hunt the often-eccentric, never-ending quest to verify the biblical story, which itself masked one of the oldest human desires: the need to make contact with God."

20110324

Death of Religion



It seems that the modern world does not just drive more and more species of flora and fauna into extinction. According to a recent study, religion is endangered, too.

The study, conducted by a US team and reported in a BBC article online, used census data from Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland and showed that religion in these countries is set for extinction.

The research team used the mathematical approach known as nonlinear dynamics to explain the phenomenon in which a number of factors play a part.

After finding out from the census data, some of which stretched back from the 19th century, that there has been a trend that people are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion, the team then applied the nonlinear dynamics model and concluded that social groups that have more members are more attractive to join because of the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership. Similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all the countries studies, indicating that religion is headed toward extinction.

The readers' comments also seem to lend support to the findings. "I don't see the decline of religion to be a particularly bad thing," said one reader. "The sooner religion is consigned to history the better," said another. Yet another reader tried to offer an explanation:

"This is definitely obvious in my age group (students), you will be hard pressed to find many who believe strongly in a religion of one kind. I think that religion is a natural human way to comprehend what we didn't understand, filling in the gaps of our knowledge until we found rational scientific explanations for things, in the developed world, religion is running out of gaps to fill."

While I agree with the last statement that "religion is running out of gaps to fill", I don't think those are necessarily gaps of knowledge. They can also be gaps of happiness, fulfillment and wisdom. It is unfortunate that in modern life, people are less and less inclined to seek to fill those gaps through religion. There are simply too many distractions and temptations. The fact that those nine nations where religion is endangered are largely Christian countries is unsettling. If religious faith becomes extinct in them, it may lead to a void in moral value which has disastrous consequences.

Just look at China.

20110323

"An unsavory spectacle"


To continue with what I wrote yesterday, let me quote the following from an online article called China's panic-buying of salt:

"Somewhat surprisingly it has been cities across China, including Hong Kong, that have witnessed panic in recent days, in contrast to the relative calm in Japan.

Last week, a salt-buying frenzy was unleashed across China that spread to Hong Kong, which quickly became a rather unsavory spectacle. Rumors had spread via the Internet from across the border that some salt contains iodine, which would provide protection from a looming radiation threat from Japan. Throngs of people began scrambling for salt, mobbing shops and wholesalers.

On Friday, the Hong Kong government had to resort to a mass text-message campaign imploring people not to believe rumors and to stop panic-buying salt. The fact you might have to eat kilos of the stuff to get sufficient iodine was of no consequence. Indeed, so chaotic was the behavior that some people were even seen bizarrely carting off bottles of soy sauce. Amid the buying, retailers reportedly raised the price of salt more than tenfold, seeing an opportunity to profit from this panic.

The whole episode has caused a certain degree of embarrassment and shame, particularly in contrast to the restrained behavior in Japan, where there is very real suffering. There the orderly and stoic lining up for water, transport and food in the middle of biblical-like devastation has shown the remarkable endurance and self-control of the Japanese people.

This makes the contrast with images on mainland China all the more stark. Some academics have suggested the willingness to believe bogus warnings reflects a lack of trust in the government's truthfulness in China. That could have some credence: Back in 2008, the government tried to keep the scandal of powdered milk mixed with melamine that was poisoning babies quiet until after the Olympic Games in Beijing. Perhaps one unintended consequence of a one-party government which controls the media with an army of censors is that it creates a fertile breeding ground for paranoia.

What is perhaps more surprising is that Hong Kong, which has a free flow of information and independent media, also joined the frenzy."

It may be a surprise to the writer that "Hong Kong... also joined the frenzy", but it is not a surprise to me at all. Having been born and bred here, I would like to say (or shall I say "I regret to say"?) that I probably know more about my folk than some gweilos.

In any case, the writer must have been, like myself, quite disgusted with the episode, in saying that it was "a rather unsavory spectacle" and "has caused a certain degree of embarrassment and shame".

20110322

Panic Buying of Salt


While buying some salt at the supermarket today (I swear that it was for no other reason than that I really ran out of that key ingredient for cooking! There were just a couple of spoonfuls left!), I saw a woman putting quite a few bags in her shopping basket - not a consumption habit that one will likely see in less turbulent times. With my own eyes, I testified the truth of the reports that Hong Kong people, along with those in China, scrambled for the iodine to protect themselves against possible radiation. I noticed, though, that the woman had very sparse hair on her head - an obvious sign of having undergone chemotherapy.

For her, at least, the panic may be understandable.

But not the pathetic behaviour of those ignorant and hysterical panic buyers.

They deserve to be mocked by the Japanese, who said sarcastically that there is nothing left on the shelves of their shops except salt, and the Chinese are welcome to trade it with their rice.

We really should be ashamed of ourselves.

20110321

Cute Knut (5 December 2006 - 19 March 2011)

More pictures of Knut. (Hey, don't cry, boy!)

20110320

Cute Knut (5 December 2006 - 19 March 2011)

Four-year-old polar bear Knut, who died yesterday while sunbathing at Berlin zoo, has touched the hearts of people all over the world, not only for his life story but also for the many lovely pictures that have been taken of him, especially those with his keeper Thomas Doerflein.

Bye, Knut!

20110319

Enough Is Enough


Pedophiles represent a serious threat to children. They are known to lurk where children play and look for opportunities to prey on them. The Internet is where they 'hang out'. Enough Is Enough, an American organisation to propagate the importance of protecting children from harms of predators and pornography, said in an article in 2000:

"Pedophiles pose another danger to children on the Internet. Pedophiles 'hang out' and even lurk where children play. Today the commputer is the playground of the new millenium where pedophiles befriend children, gain their trust, and can lure them from home and molest their prey. Recent newspaper articles report that there are numerous computer bulletin boards set up specifically for the seduction of children."

I can testify to how rampant the situation used to be. A few years ago, it was very easy to find cartoons, designs and other materials which appeared to the untrained eye to be merely kid stuff but were actually the most deadly trap to lure innocent children into a relationship. Today, due to the relentless crackdown of law enforcers, such materials have all but disappeared, but one can be sure that somewhere in the dark, some pedophiles are lurking in the dark, trying different ruses, looking for the next helpless victim.

These criminals are to be brought to justice at all costs.

20110318

Not for My Kindle



One e-book that until recently was available from Amazon, The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct, has stirred up a lot of controversy.

As a response to the request of some individuals, some of whom even threatened to boycott the site, Amazon has now been removed the book from sale. The company had previously adopted a defiant stance, saying in a statement that "Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable".

Amazon allows authors to sell their own books on its website if they agree to follow some guidelines, one of which is no offensive materials. Amazon does not specifically state what "offensive" means, only saying "probably what you would expect".

The author of the book, listed as Philip R Greaves II, probably does not think his book is "offensive". He argues that pedophiles are "misunderstood" and purports to offer advice to help them abide by the law".

The undeniable truth is that pedophilia is a despicable and sickening crime. No amount of sugar-coating can camouflage it to be otherwise. Amazon simply cannot get away with the claim of "support(ing) the right of every individual".

20110317

A Third of a Lifetime Ago




The other e-book that I am reading (yes, I am hopping among a few books, switching from one to the other depending on my mood and condition) is Kenny Dalglish's autobiography My Liverpool Home, and I am now at the chapter in which King Kenny talked about the Heysel tragedy in which 39 people died because of fans' trouble in the 1985 European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus.

It was a match I remember well. I was already a Liverpool fan back then. I wouldn't miss my favourite team's second consecutive European Cup Final for anything, even though the match was broadcast live on Hong Kong TV at the ungodly hour of 3 am (or was it 3:30?). Some childhood friends of mine were also diehard Liverpool supporters. To share the imminent glory of our team, we went to the hair salon at which one of them was employed and watched together. We were absolutely stunned and gutted, more by what happened in the hellish 90 minutes of chaos on the dreadful night than by the subsequent loss of our team by a controversial penalty. The day had dawned by the time we trudged home in dismay.

Taken back to that fateful night by King Kenny's reminiscence, I realise to my amazement that it was an incident that happened more than a quarter of a century ago. Given that the lifespan of an average man is composed of about three quarters of a century, it means that there has been about a third of my life between that night and now.

I can almost see time slipping away between my fingers.

20110316

From "Life without Limbs" to "Life without Limits"



One e-book I have been sampling (and definitely will buy, when I have finished the couple that are still in my Kindle) is Nick Vujicic's Life Without Limits. He is, of course, the world renowned man who was born without any limbs whom I wrote about in the 25 November blog entry last year. What is truly amazing is not only that he has transformed a "life without limbs" that most would shudder at into a "life without limits", it is also his incredibly positive attitude, saying that life is "ridiculously good" and he is "ridiculously happy".

Nick Vujicic reminds us of this line from the Bible: "Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of any kinds." (James 1:2) But of course it was not plain sailing. It wasn't for his parents. "My parents are devout Christians," Nick wrote. "But after I was born with neither arms nor legs, they wondered what God had in mind in creating me." And it wasn't for him. "That is a lesson I struggled many years to learn," he said.

But he said that he eventually figured it out, and the purpose of sharing his life story with the readers is that "through my experiences I can help you see that most of the hardships we face provide us with opportunities to discover who we are meant to be and what we can share of our gifts to benefit others".

Remember Stanley Arnold's immortal line, "Every problem contains within itself the seeds of its own solution", that I quoted in the blog on 25 February?

Aren't these just different ways of saying the same thing?

20110315

Read Before You Buy


I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Kindle is probably the best human invention after panty hose. For the gadget to be able to change the mind of an old fashioned reader like me who used to think that a book is something with pages made of paper that you can leaf through says a lot about how good it is.

Apart from the functions of checking word meanings by placing the cursor next to the new word and highlighting notes which can be extracted to a computer file for later, one can also download samples of books and read the beginning part before deciding whether to buy it. We can say goodbye to the days of condemning a book to a forgotten space on the shelf reading a few pages and finding that it is not suitable.

Kindle users have invested a sizeable amount of money to buy the gadget to begin with, so it will only make economic sense for them to make buying books from Amazon a habit. Take my Kindle, which costs USD189 (plus the USD60 for the cover), for an example. If I only ever buy, say, five e-books, how expensive they will be on average if the cost of the Kindle is put into the equation, compared with if I will buy a few hundred in the long run? And while this makes economic sense to the consumer, it certainly also makes business sense to Amazon.

Enabling the consumer to read book samples will no doubt promote book sales. I fear that the flip side of it is that writers will put ever more effort in writing brilliant book openings just to lure readers into making a purchase. But then this probably has always been the case before the days of e-books. Apart from "judging a book by its cover", do consumers in a bookshop not make the decision of whether to buy a book by scanning it and reading the first few pages of it?

20110314

How Carra Developed as a Footballer and a Person

Here are some notes I have extracted from the book Carra: My Autobiography. They are mainly related to how Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher developed as a footballer and a person:

'You need to start appreciating your team-mates.'

Courage, character, grit, willpower and raw strength – these are the virtues people have instilled into me since I was seven years old.

It wasn't simply my football ability the fans were yearning for, it was my personality and character. The Kop loved me for what I represented. I was now being valued as a symbol of what a Liverpool player should be.

From the start I always felt close to GĂ©rard [Houllier]. We shared an obsession with football. He would return home after an evening fixture and watch the match twice on video so he could tell each player what he'd done right or wrong at training the next day. I'd have private meetings with him at Melwood when he'd go through the tapes and pick out my errors. Some players hated it, but I enjoyed it. The painstaking attention to detail was weird yet inspiring. If I played well in my next game and showed the manager how much I'd taken his advice, he'd make me feel ten feet tall with his congratulations.

The people here are happy for you if you achieve a level of success, but they don't like to see it go to your head.

As a player, I've always thought like a manager. From as far back as I can remember I've understood the language of football – not just what's said, but in my reading of the game. I see where moves are developing a second earlier than some players. The reason I've been able to throw my body in the way of a goalbound shot so often is I've sensed the danger before it arrived. I've never been someone who merely absorbed information on the training pitch like a zombie and just did everything I was told without questioning it. I've taken on board all the positive coaching ideas I've been given by Evans, Moran, Houllier and Benitez and applied them to my own view of how the game should be played.

'You never stop learning in football,' Ronnie Moran taught me, and he was sixty-five at the time.

I'm also an avid reader of books – usually sport-related, of course. I hand my family a list of new titles every Christmas so I've always something to poke my nose into on Liverpool's away trips. I've read most players' autobiographies, which was one of the reasons I was so keen to get my own thoughts off my chest.

I shared the accolade with my family. The people of Bootle may have been showing their gratitude towards me, but it pales into insignificance compared with my debt to them.

I owe everything to the game, and everything to the place where I was born and the people who live there. I'll never lose that affection.

No matter how tough the circumstances or how painful the outcome might be, if you showed the right character and stood firm behind what you believed was right, everything could turn out for the best.

My mum said she was sure someone was watching over me from the moment I was born. As I re-read the pages in my life, I think she was right.

20110313

We Have Sinned

The Bible readings today prepare us well for the First Sunday of Lent by reminding us that "we have sinned" (Psalm 51:3). The fateful scene depicted in Genesis 2-3 shows that the fall of Adam and Eve from God's grace certainly had a lot to do with the seven cardinal sins of anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. And how the serpent took advantage of that!

"The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom." This applies to us in every way, too. How many times have we succumbed to temptations for these reasons?

The Gospel today tells of another immortal scene - that of the devil tempting Jesus after he fasted for forty days and nights. The episode in Matthew 4:1-11 shows how outrageously cunning the devil is, even couching his temptations in the guise of a quote from the scripture. Only Jesus was more than his match, and He gave us a perfect demonstration of how to resist temptations.

As we prepare ourselves for the beginning of Lent, may God grant us to humility to admit that we have sinned, the wisdom to recognise the devil's temptations and the strength to resist them.

20110312

"He did that, too!"

You know what kids like doing when they are found to have done something wrong? They point an accusing finger at another kid and yell: "He did that, too!"

That's exactly what Sir Alex Ferguson in response to the remarks of Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish (see my blog entry on 4 March) and former English manager Graham Taylor regarding his criticism of referees. Here is what he said:

"I was disappointed with Graham Taylor, who wrote that I had to take 'the rough with the smooth'. I think back to when he was England manager and was complaining to a linesman: 'The referee has got me the sack.' People have short memories. Kenny Dalglish looked to be lecturing me in the papers about the need to respect referees, perhaps forgetting that not so long ago his players were tweeting critically all over the place about Howard Webb."

20110311

A Disciplined and Dignified People


What a discipline and dignified race the Japanese people are is clearly reflected in the way they react to this latest earthquake disaster.

In face of the country's most powerful earthquake on record, which scientists said was nearly 8,000 times stronger than the one that devastated Christchurch last month, and the ensuing tsunami of up to 10m, there was no stampede, no opportunist looting - something quite unthinkable in the neighbouring "great" nation. And the fact that most people were evacuated within minutes after the tsunami waves were rushing to the coast at frightening speed, keeping the casualty and death toll to a minimum, says a lot about how organised the people are. I pray that they will pull themselves together and see through the disaster. I also pray that there will not be massive aftershocks, that there is no leakage of radiation to pile on the misery, and the rescue, relief and rebuilding work may take off smoothly.

20110310

The Ctrl+C Ctrl+V Boom

I always hail the Internet as being the greatest invention in the modern era, for the reason that it provides us with information, and maybe knowledge, that was simply unthinkable in the pre-Cyberspace times. Back then, it was very difficult, if not impossible, to find information as simple as the lyrics of a song. To do some serious research, one would have to refer to an encyclopedia or go to the library. One might have to spend a whole day searching, taking notes or photocopying, and if he is unlucky, he effort might be futile.

Now, everything is just a Google or Wikipedia search away.

And that, some say, is exactly where the problem lies. Apart from the fact that there is no quality control regarding the information we may find because everyone can publish, the abundance and availability of information means it has never been easier to plagiarise - to take other people's work and claim it as one's own. It's a simple matter of copying and pasting, what a recent BBC online article called the "Ctrl+C Ctrl+V boom". The most high profile case of plagiarism recently is German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg stepping down after it was found out that he had lifted large parts of his doctorate thesis without attribution. He has been mockingly called zu Googleberg because of that.

I have to say that I have used the Ctrl+C Ctrl+V keys quite a lot too, including in the process of writing this, but I wouldn't say that I plagiarise, as it is only the facts that I use, and I when I quote, I either put the idea in quotation or acknowledge the source. I express my ideas rather than take those of others. But I do realise that there is a fine line between paraphrasing and plagiarising. That is where a software programme such as Turnitin, which universities use to analyse suspicious essays, comes in.

20110309

Colour Carnival





These photos show five recent carnivals. Can you tell which is which?

1. The carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2. The Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras carnival in Sydney, Australia
3. The Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans, USA
4. The Binche carnival in Belgium
5. The Strumica carnival in Macedonia

20110308

Consistency is the Key

We can celebrate all we like Liverpool's emphatic win against archrivals Manchester United on Sunday, like we did after the sweet victory against Chelsea a month ago. But let's not get carried away. The 18-point gap between us and Manchester United, who are still the league leaders, says everything about how far apart we are. We should not forget that, sandwiched between these two great triumphs are two disappointing league games in which we were held by Wigan, a team which now sit at the bottom of the table, and beaten by relegation-threatened West Ham United.

Lucas Leiva said after the match against Manchester United: "Kenny spoke with us in the team meeting and said we should only worry about ourselves, and that if we play as we can then we would win." I wonder whether, when King Kenny said this to motivate the team, there was at the back of his mind this quiet admission: "That may be true, but we don't always play as we can!" Beating the league leaders 3:1 and losing to a struggling team by the same scoreline. There could hardly be a better illustration of the painful inconsistency that has been plaguing us in recent years. No matter what famous or memorable victories we chalk up against great teams, unless we somehow find a way to grind out results against the lesser teams on a regular basis, such wins can at best only serve as Viagara to satisfy our needs for self-aggrandisement.

20110307

An Inspired Choice


A copy of William Glasser's book Choice Theory, which was meant to be a present for a good friend, had been sitting on my book shelf for some time before I finally had a chance to meet her and give it to her during the Chinese New Year holiday.

What prompted me to think about giving her the book was when she was suffering from what appeared to be postpartum depression and her overbearing husband simply piled on the pressure. I was hoping that the book, together with my prayer, would help. According to Glasser's choice theory, while "Love and Belonging" is one of the five key human needs, some people seek to meet the need by choosing to exert external control on others, not realising that this would damage relationships and cause unhappiness, which is quite the opposite of the outcome they intend. I thought this was something my friend and, particularly, her husband should know. I mentioned the book and the theory to her and she seemed interested, but I didn't have a chance to pass it on. Fortunately, her postpartum depression was healed after she sought medical attention, and it seemed that her husband also tried to improve his attitude upon seeing how she had suffered. But I believed that the book would still be useful, so I made it a Chinese New Year gift.

I ran into her when having afternoon tea today and the first thing she told me was that she had read more than 70 pages of the book and found it very useful. What was even more encouraging was the news that her husband is also learning to apply what the book teaches.

It is always a joy to share knowledge. It is even more so when the shared knowledge makes a difference.

20110306

On rock, please!

The two readings in today's Mass complements each other well. Whereas it is said in Romans 3:28 that "a person is justified in faith" - faith in Jesus Christ, Jesus supplements it by suggesting that faith alone is not enough and we have to put our faith into action.
The reading today (Matthew 7:21-27) begins with Jesus saying: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." He then makes use of the parable of the house on rock and the house on sand to illustrate the difference between the one who listens to His words and acts on them and the one who listens but does not act on them. When the rain falls, the flood comes and the winds blows, he house of the former does not collapse because it has been set solidly on rock but the other one does and is completely ruined.

Jesus warns that, come judgement day, those of us who do not do the will of God will be turned away by Him.

So our faith should be supported by our action.

20110305

It's God's Harvest Time

It was great joy mixed with equally great disbelief when a former colleague told me that he has been going to a catechumen class and will be baptised this Easter. Even his wife, a devout Catholic who is also a good friend of mine, has long given up on ever seeing his conversion. But such are the wonders and grace of Almighty God. It doesn't matter how long it takes. It doesn't matter what barren soil the seeds fell onto. They will germinate when He means them to.

I was privileged to hear the friend sharing his honest feelings with me - saying that he is not without doubts, and he has practical motives for his conversion. To which my reply is that it doesn't matter. Faith is a lifelong journey and it is bound to be a bumpy ride.

He said that the biggest stumbling block for his Christian belief in the last twenty years or so has been his attribution of his achievements to his own self and abilities. It is only until recently that he has begun to see it differently. I told him that humility is one of the most important elements of our faith and congratulated him for getting past this great barrier.

He said the driving force has been his wish to go to Heaven with his wife. I hope and pray that the wish will be achieved.

Now what would be a perfect gift for his baptism?

20110304

The Respect Campaign


I echo many Liverpool supporters in saying that with Kenny Dalglish back in charge, we are like born-again fans.

Within the short time since King Kenny took charge of the team, he has inspired the resurgence of the team which have re-discovered the self-belief and re-kindled the fire. Better still, it is a joy to see how he cleverly took on Sir Alex Ferguson.

Before Sunday's match against Manchester United, King Kenny, without mentioning Ferguson by name, expressed his concern that "the ones who shout the loudest get more beneficial decisions" from referees. After Ferguson was charged with improper conduct by the English FA after he spoke out against the referee following Manchester United's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on 1 March, Kenny Dalglish stressed his hope that such comments would not influence officials' decisions in United's favour. That is a brilliant move against Ferguson's time-honoured tactic of putting pressure on match officials, the so-called mind games that he is so good at playing.
Dalglish's comments were echoed by former boss Rafael Benitez, who said that "the people who are doing the right things have to have some benefit and, to the people that are not doing this, someone has to say, 'Enough is enough'."

The unfair advantage United have been enjoying, probably because of such abusive comments by the United boss, has led to the fury and query of some football personnel. After Wayne Rooney escaped a red card and a retrospective ban after elbowing James McCarthy during a recent match against Wigan, Wigan chairman Dave Whelan said he felt Rooney's escape was unjustifiable.

"I cannot understand how the FA can say there will be no further action," Whelan said. "Manchester United is a great club and Fergie is just simply the best manager, but it is the referees who seem to be afraid of applying the law to United and I don't know why. Man United get treated a little bit differently to the rest of the football clubs. I wish they would treat Wigan like that. I wish we could get away with certain things that Man United get away with."

Referring to Rooney's foul, he said: "If it was any other club or player, you can bet your life he would have been sent off, but officials seem intimidated by the words 'Rooney' and 'United'. Manchester United are allowed to get away with things the rest of us get pulled up for, and you can't have one set of rules for one club and another for the rest. I don't care what the FA say about the matter being dealt with at the time by us getting a free-kick. They, and everyone else in football, know justice isn't being served here."

Likewise, FIFA president Sepp Blatter also claimed the English FA could have thrown the book at Wayne Rooney. He said: "This is up to the discretion of the national association. They can use video evidence in the discipline and control committee."

Blatter called on managers to show more respect to referees. "Everyone deserves fair play," Blatter said. "Respect starts with self-discipline. This is what we are asking everywhere, from youth teams upwards and it is also valid for personalities. The higher your position the higher your responsibility. Those that have more power should be more responsible towards others. This is a principle in life."

This respect campaign was what Dalglish spoke out quite pointedly about. "When I came back in as manager I was made fully aware of the respect campaign with regard to officials. I think we have adhered to the campaign in every respect... It is impossible for officials not to make mistakes, but there is a respect campaign in football and I want to know whether we are going to be the only ones that adhere to it. I hope that we aren't going to suffer as a club because we show respect to officials. We will continue to respect the campaign - but only as long as we don't suffer in any way, shape or form because of it."

I hate to say it, but this sounds almost like a mind game to me.