Posts Tagged ‘disasters’

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, March 29, 2016 — God has made him both Lord and Christ

March 28, 2016

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Reading 1 ACTS 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 AND 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaPS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.
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Art: Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb by Rembrandt c.1638 — “She thought it was the gardener.”
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Commentary on John 20:11-18 from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the Father.” A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death.
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At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
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The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
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So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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29 MARCH 2016, Tuesday Within Easter Octave
COMING OUT OF OUR TOMB

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:36-41; JN 20:11-18 ]

Today is the second day of the Octave of Easter.   Are you resurrected yet?  Or are you still in the tomb?  If so, why is it that you are still hiding in the tomb when we are told that the Lord has removed the stone blocking you from coming out of the tomb?  Moreover, the morning star has set and the light of Christ is shining so brightly outside the tomb!

If we are still in the tomb, it could be because we are like Mary, who was not able to let go of the past.  She could not let go of the beautiful memories she had of Jesus who saved her from sin and from living a meaningless life.   She was still thinking of the Jesus of Nazareth whom she loved with all her heart.  She was clinging to the things of this world, to what is earthly.  At the same time, she could not forget the horrible sight and memories of Jesus who was scourged, mocked, ridiculed and crucified on the cross.  She must have been so heartbroken, not just at the death of Jesus but the tragic way He died; an ignominious and innocent death.

It is the same for us too.  We are like Mary who continued to cling to our past, the good old days when our children were with us at our side but now no more as they are now living their independent lives. Some of us are in bereavement over the loss of our loved ones; some are widowed and some of us are sickly.  Again, when we think of the good old days, we cannot but regret that the good times have passed, and now we are living lives of loneliness and pain.  Indeed, it is the tendency of those of us are who suffering to bemoan the nostalgic times and wish that we could relive them.

When we are not ready to move on to a new situation, we become misfits in society and in life.  Sadly, those who have suffered failures in relationship, who have been jilted or betrayed in marriage and friendship, are not willing to move on and would rather give up on relationships all together.  The failure to adapt and change is the cause of our misery.  When we continue to look to the good old days, reinforcing our pains and misery and wallowing in them, we cannot see the Risen Lord or even the angels that the Lord sends to us.  This was certainly what happened to Mary Magdalene.  We read that “still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she replied, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’”  She did not even see the angels or know that they were angels from God who had been sent to help her and console her with the Good News.   We, too, when we are absorbed in our pains and hurts, we cannot see the light in front of us and the angels God sends to us through our friends, colleagues, loved ones, the priests and especially the Word of God and the Eucharist.

For others, it is their sins that prevent them from seeing the new life.  They have not completely given up their sins.  St Paul reminds us of the need to get rid of the old yeast of sin so that we can be fresh dough.  (cf 1 Cor 5:7-8)  If we are not ready to give up our sins, such as anger, revenge, lust, envy, sloth, greed and gluttony, we cannot find life.  Without giving up the sins that we cling to, we remain slaves to all that is negative and destructive of our happiness and freedom.  No one who is under the bondage of the Evil One is free to be happy.  No one can sin and be truly happy because deep in his heart, he knows that he is not just cheating others but himself.  He would have no confidence to stand before God with a clear conscience.  (cf1 Jn 3:21)  So we must resolve to throw out all that remains of our pride and selfishness so that we can renew ourselves in the power of the Risen Lord.

St Peter made it clear to the Jews that they must repent and be baptized if they want to enter the Promised Land.  Peter answered, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.”  We must make a decision to turn away from our sins and what that binds us to the past.  That was what happened to Mary as well.  When her eyes were turned away from Jesus, she could not recognize Him, thinking that He was the gardener.  She said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”  To be baptized means that we enter into the tomb of Jesus and rise up again, washed clean of our sins and our past; and put on the new garment, the new creation that we are called to be.  (cf Eph 2:10)

But we might say to ourselves, “we have no strength” to do it.  We want to come out of our tomb but we find ourselves powerless.  We want to forgive but we cannot.  We want to make ourselves useful but we are lazy and selfish.  We want to be generous but we are afraid to letting go of our wealth and possessions.  We want to serve but we are not willing to share our time and leisure with others.  We want to live a simpler life but the enticement of money, glory and power overwhelms us.  So we are trapped by our sins and the lack of the capacity to break free from our clutches, like the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.

That is why we must turn to Jesus. He has already removed that stone.  But now we need to get out of that tomb.  This also needs His help because we are still too crippled to come out by ourselves.  We can now see the light outside the cave shining into our tombs, but we are not able to climb out.  This was what Mary did when the Lord drew her towards Him.  “Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”   We need to hear the Lord speaking to us intimately and personally if we are to break free from our chains.  St Paul said it for himself when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

Only when we can come to the conviction that Christ loves us, we cannot be set free from our past and bondages.  That was what Jesus said to Mary after calling her name.  He said, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”   We cannot let go of our straws unless we have found the cross of life.  We cannot let go of worldly enjoyments unless we have tasted the joy of love, the peace of a clear conscience, the freedom of surrendering our lives to God as we give ourselves in love and service, not thinking about ourselves and our security but that of others.

So if we want the Lord to enter into our lives and lead us out of the tomb which is now opened, we need to be like Mary Magdalene, pondering the love of Jesus for us.  Only when we contemplate what the Lord has done for us, how much He has suffered innocently and died for our sins, will our hearts then be converted like that of the Jews.  It was only when they heard Peter’s discourse of how they killed and crucified the Lord and Messiah that “they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’”  So we must open our hearts, our ears and our eyes in prayer and intimacy with the Lord.  When we realize how our sins continue to crucify the Lord even today and how we are hurting Him, because we are hurting ourselves and those whom He loves equally, then our hearts too will be cut to the quick and repent.  If we turn to the Lord and seek forgiveness, then St Peter says that we will receive the Holy Spirit who will then give us the resurrected life of Christ. With the Holy Spirit in us, the Father and the Son living in us, we are in Him as He is in us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Dysfunction of China’s one-party system and corruption gave us the year of man-made disasters — President Xi Jinping (習近平) calls for a “national renaissance”

January 1, 2016

A comment by Cary Huang says we hear officials promising to act after every deadly industrial accident, but all the efforts seem unable to prevent yet more fatalities

By Cary Huang
South China Morning Post

Not a day goes by, it seems, without a man-made industrial incident in China. And every few months, at the very least, the country witnesses a massive disaster that kills scores of people.

As the world was seeing in 2015, 36 revellers were killed in a stampede on Shanghai’s scenic Bund. On July 1, more than 440 people died when a cruise ship capsized on the Yangtze River in heavy rain. On August 12, over 173 people were killed and more than 700 injured in a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin (天津), which also forced over 6,000 people to leave their homes. And more than 80 people are feared dead after a massive landslide of earth and construction waste buried buildings at an industrial estate in Shenzhen on December 20.

READ MORE: Shenzhen landslide aftermath: official who rubber-stamped waste dump that triggered disaster takes his own life

Of course, other countries suffer man-made incidents. But as the world’s most populous nation and leading manufacturer, China has more than its fair share. Add to this the fact that the world’s second-largest economy has been building vast numbers of large-scale infrastructure projects which only increase the potential for such incidents.

A rescuer searches for trapped people in Shenzhen after a landslide buried 22 residential and industrial buildings. Photo: XinhuaMany of China’s problems are unique. First, China tops the world for these grim statistics. Last year, some 70,000 people died in work-related accidents in the country, compared with less than 5,000 in the US, the world’s second-largest manufacturer. With nearly 200 deaths per day, China’s on-the-job death rate is a dozen times higher than that of most industrialised nations

Second, such incidents often occur due to the flouting of regulations that could have been detected and prevented beforehand, but were not. For instance, Shenzhen media have reported several times in the past few years that companies were illegally dumping construction waste as the legal dumps were all full. But the alarm bells got little attention from officials responsible for industrial safety.

In the Tianjin accident, the hazardous materials were located near apartments, in violation of regulations, and there were no official records of the materials stored there that were to blame for the deaths of many firefighters.

READ MORE: Tap water in Tianjin, scene of deadly blast in August, turns bright green after chemical factory spill

Third, the problem is that despite all the government’s efforts, the situation has not improved, allowing such disasters to happen time and again. In the wake of each disaster, we witness officials vowing to act, as regulations are increased, punishments meted out and systematic nationwide safety reviews are initiated. But all efforts seem to have been unable to prevent other incidents.

Rescue workers hold a moment’s silence at a ceremony to mark the seventh day after the Eastern Star cruise ship went down in the Yangtze River. Photo: ReutersChina’s “war against pollution” has been similar, with air pollution going from bad to worse last year as Beijing was forced to declare “red alerts”, the most severe air pollution warning, for the first time.

These problems are endemic to most areas of Chinese society, whether it concerns food, workplace safety or environmental protection. The reasons behind such occurrences are similar across the board: a lack of oversight, corruption among officials and attempts to boost profits by ignoring laws and regulations. They also point to the dysfunction of China’s one-party system, which lacks a free press to monitor the bureaucracy, an independent judiciary for law enforcement, and checks and balances to hold officials accountable.

Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building following the landslide in Shenzhen. More than 80 people are feared dead. Photo: APIn recent surveys, most people ranked environment, food and workplace safety as “the most important quality-of-life issues”. The leadership should understand that only when China is a safe, clean and pleasurable place to live can people begin to dream of achieving what President Xi Jinping (習近平) has called a “national renaissance”.

Cary Huang is a senior writer at the Post

http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1896993/how-many-more-people-have-die-china-gets-grips-root-causes

China’s disaster playbook not good enough after Tianjin explosions — “There’s still a fairly long way to go for China to become a developed and well-managed country.”

August 18, 2015

AFP

Chinese premier Li Keqiang (2nd L) inspecting the site of the massive explosions in Tianjin. © AFP / by Benjamin Haas

BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese authorities’ handling of the Tianjin explosions bears many of the hallmarks of their standard approach to the litany of disasters in the country — a clampdown on discussion, official obfuscation, and carefully targeted media condemnation.But it has been unusually ineffective, analysts say, with a lack of transparency compared to previous disasters that has created an image of indecision or even possible infighting at the highest levels of power.

The August 12 explosions at the hazardous goods storage facility in the port of Tianjin set off a giant fireball, killed 114 people, devastated a vast area and raised fears over potentially toxic contamination.

They are only the latest in a series of man-made calamities to strike the Communist country. Two months ago a ferry capsized in the Yangtze River, on New Year’s Eve in Shanghai a crush killed dozens and a pipeline explosion in Qingdao devastated an entire neighbourhood.

Central authorities look to portray such events as the result of individual, local failures, rather than consequences of China’s system of governance, and are quick to suppress any online blame targeting the central government or the system as a whole.

China has punished 50 websites and 360 social media accounts for “spreading rumours” about the Tianjin blast, authorities have said.

But local authorities have been condemned online and in state-run media for not rapidly disclosing details of what chemicals were present on the site.

?There is a feeling that the authorities are stalling and not being forthright with the people because they are still trying to determine what the next step is,” said Joseph Cheng, a former political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

“Man-made disasters like the Tianjin explosion reflect that society is not well managed because safety rules are not followed and corruption is rampant.”

China also regularly suffers earthquakes and flooding and in recent years the Premier — first Wen Jiabao, now Li Keqiang — has regularly rushed to disaster sites in a show of Beijing’s concern and desire to implement effective rescue efforts.

But Li only arrived in Tianjin on Sunday afternoon, several days after the Wednesday night disaster.

“Now most of the leadership is not taking responsibility, they’re afraid to take responsibility because they are afraid of losing their posts,” wrote one user on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like website.

The delay was “very strange” said Willy Lam, a political science professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, “especially since Tianjin is just a short train ride from Beijing.

“When it comes to natural or man-made disasters, we used to see Grandpa Wen on the scene within 48 hours.”

Li rushed to June’s ferry disaster — which killed 442 people — less than two days after the capsize. Last August he was at the scene of an earthquake that killed more than 600 people for several days, and featured prominently in China’s state-run media.

“This suggests there is a division among the leadership on who should be the fall guy,” Lam said.

– Called to account –

Accountability for disasters in China is variable. Following a collision between two high-speed trains in Wenzhou — which tarnished the reputation one of China’s flagship projects — the railways ministry was abolished.

In the pipeline explosion in Qingdao, 48 people were disciplined, including Fu Chengyu, chairman of the company that owned the pipeline, but only 15 faced criminal charges.

But no-one has ever been prosecuted over the deaths of more than 5,000 children in an earthquake in Sichuan, when their shoddily built schools collapsed but buildings used by officials remained standing, raising widespread accusations of corruption.

While in Tianjin, Li himself told Hong Kong’s i-Cable TV: “We must investigate the accident, find the cause of the blasts and anyone who acted illegally will be severely punished.”

Authorities have been lambasted for failing to uphold industrial regulations, notably requirements that warehouses stocking dangerous materials be at least one kilometre from surrounding public buildings and main roads.

– ‘Fall guy’ –

Internal principles link disaster death tolls to the rank of official who will ultimately be held accountable, Lam said.

“If it’s under 200, only the vice mayor of Tianjin in charge of safety will need to resign,” Lam said, adding he is the “obvious fall guy”.

But in the case of Tianjin, current mayor Huang Xingguo is widely seen by analysts as part of the Communist party’s “Zhejiang faction”, which has close ties to President Xi Jinping.

He was a vice governor of Zhejiang province when Xi was governor, and Lam said the relationship could protect him from punishment, or limit any repercussions.

The head of China’s State Administration of Work Safety, Yang Dongliang, was put under investigation for “suspected severe violation of discipline and the law”, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Tuesday, employing a phrase often used to indicate corruption.

“There’s still a fairly long way to go for China to become a developed and well-managed country,” Cheng said.

by Benjamin Haas
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China’s Toxic Mindset — With Little Emphasis on Human Rights and Transparency, China’s State-Run Media Will Never Help Foster Needed Changes

August 18, 2015

Rescuers in protective suits are scrambling to clean up hundreds of tonnes of toxic cyanide at the site of explosions in the northern port city of Tianjin, and state-run media has criticised officials for their lack of transparency over the blasts that have killed 114.

The death toll is expected to rise as a further 70 people, mostly firemen, remain missing.

The fireball that tore through a warehouse storing hazardous chemicals last Wednesday night left behind a devastated landscape littered with incinerated cars, crumpled shipping containers and shattered windows on buildings several kilometres away hit by shockwaves from the blasts. As fears grow about air quality in the city, criticism in the press has mounted, with editorials fingering local officials for the slow release of information.

Chinese citizens were living in these apartments near the port of Tianjin, China last week when the explosions and inferno destroyed the area. EPA photo

“During the first dozens of hours after the blasts, there was scant information offered by the Tianjin authorities,” the Global Times said in an editorial. “A single slow reaction can lead to rumours running riot. And in turn, public confidence in the government will continue to fall.”

China Daily’s editorial noted that many questions remain to be answered. “When the entire site will be cleared up remains a question, and whether there is still any potential health threat from toxic gas in the air or contamination of the nearby environment remains to be determined,” it said.

Officials yesterday promised to clear most of the toxic sodium cyanide at the periphery of the blast area by the end of the day.

The quality of the air and water in the nearby river is within safe standards, they said at a press conference, even as some 200 residents gathered outside the venue demanding compensation for their damaged homes.

The Tianjin disaster is just the latest in a string of deadly industrial accidents in China occurring against the backdrop of three decades of frenetic economic growth which has left workplace safety standards struggling to keep up.

As recently as last month, 15 people were killed and more than a dozen injured when an illegal fireworks warehouse exploded in northern Hebei province.

Top Chinese leaders have repeatedly demanded that safety issues be tackled but such calls have gained little ground on the factory floor. Last Saturday, President Xi Jinping, for instance, urged the authorities to learn from the “extremely profound” lessons paid for with blood from the Tianjin blasts which, besides killing 114, have also caused injuries to more than 700 people. It could turn out to be an expensive tragedy, with media reports estimating insurance claims of up to 10 billion yuan (S$2.2 billion).

But Mr Xi’s call is not new. He had similarly pressed for efforts to resolve China’s “deep-rooted” safety issues in June 2013 after some 120 people died when a fire broke out at a poultry plant in northern Jilin province.

Experts say despite high-level attention to the issue, workplace safety continues to be a problem in China because of poor enforcement of safety regulations and lax controls over inspections and training.

While many workplace safety rules exist, they are not strictly enforced, partly due to corruption that allows business owners to evade regulations in pursuit of profit, according to the experts.

Mr He Shusheng, a Tianjin vice-mayor, told a news conference “around 700 tonnes” of sodium cyanide were stored at the warehouse where the blasts took place, significantly more than it was authorised to do so. The Beijing News, citing storage plans it had seen, said the warehouse was authorised to hold only 24 tonnes of the substance.

Mr Li Qiang, founder of China Labour Watch, told The Straits Times that properly ensuring workplace safety will significantly raise a firm’s cost. “The penalties of safety violations are also not severe in China. Many businesses just hope to be lucky and escape having industrial accidents,” he said. “The enforcement by local governments is another issue; in many cases, firms simply pay the fines and are able to pass safety inspections.”

And Mr Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin which promotes workers’ rights, pointed out: “There is no shortage of legislation on workplace safety in China, the problem is it’s simply not enforced on the ground.”

There are rules, for instance, for machine inspection, safe operation, and even upper levels for labour intensity to prevent injuries from overwork.

Statistically, there seems to have been some improvement in the area of work safety, although overall numbers remain shocking. Figures from the State Administration of Work Safety show that in the first six months of this year there were 139,000 industrial accidents and 26,000 deaths. This is a 7.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent decrease respectively, from the same period last year – but it is still an average of 143 workers killed daily.

China is the world’s largest producer of coal and in this sector there has been notable progress. Accidents in Chinese coal mines killed 931 people last year, according to official figures, down from 7,000 in 2002 as the consolidation of the industry led to many small mines being closed.

China’s top prosecutor has opened an investigation into the Tianjin blasts, which have reignited the debate about safety standards in the country. Experts say simply passing more laws will not solve the problem. Rather, a change in mindset is sorely needed.

“The only way to improve safety is to make it a priority in the workplace, to create a culture where employers, employees and regulators all stress the importance of safety over the blind pursuit of profit,” Mr Crothall told The Straits Times.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline ‘Toxic mindset’.
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  • RECENT INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENTS IN CHINA

  • JULY 2015: 15 people were killed and more than a dozen injured when an illegal fireworks warehouse exploded in the northern province ofHebei. The blast even shattered windows of a factory about1kmaway, said the Xinhua news agency.NOVEMBER 2014: A fire at a food packaging plant in Shandong province killed at least 18 workers and injured 13. The blaze destroyed 1,500 sqmof the factory. A preliminary investigation showed a faulty freezer caused the blast, Xinhua reported.AUGUST 2014: An explosion at a car parts factory in Jiangsu province killed at least 146 people. The State Administration of Work Safety found the factory lacked adequate ventilation or equipment to clear the high concentration of dust that led to the blast. The factory had been warned about dust several times before the accident.

    NOVEMBER 2013: A pipeline explosion at state-owned oil refiner Sinopec’s facility in the eastern port of Qingdao killed 62 people and injured 136. Unacceptable oil pipeline design, inadequate supervision and handling were among factors blamed for the blast.

    JUNE 2013: Some 120 people died and 54 were injured when a huge fire broke out at a poultry plant in Jilin province. The blaze was said to have been caused by an ammonia leak, and the high number of deaths was attributed to the fact that many of the exits were locked, thereby cutting off any possible emergency escape routes.

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China investigates top work safety regulator after Tianjin blasts

August 18, 2015

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“Do you think if we knew there were dangerous chemicals so near we would have bought the apartment?”

Reuters

A paramilitary policeman wearing a mask stands guard at a location within a 3-km (2-mile) exclusion zone from last week’s explosion site in Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 18, 2015.
REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON
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Authorities are investigating the head of China’s work safety regulator, the Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog said on Tuesday, a week after huge blasts in a warehouse storing hazardous chemicals killed 114 people in Tianjin.

State media said the company that operated the warehouse was not licensed to handle hazardous chemicals until two months before the explosions. Protesters have demanded compensation and mourners held memorials for victims earlier on Tuesday.

The explosions late last Wednesday in Tianjin, the world’s 10th-busiest port in China’s industrial northeast, forced the evacuation of thousands of people after toxic chemicals were detected in the air.

More than 700 people were injured and another 70, mostly fire fighters, are still missing. The blasts devastated a large industrial site and nearby residences nearby.

Investigators have not determined the cause of the blasts but the Tianjin disaster has deepened public concern about work safety regulations. China has struggled in recent years with incidents ranging from mining disasters to factory fires, and President Xi Jinping has vowed that authorities should learn the lessons paid for with blood.

Yang Dongliang, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, is “currently undergoing investigation” for suspected violations of party discipline and the law, China’s anti-graft watchdog said in a statement on its website.

Firefighters and rescue workers at the site where deadly explosions rocked Tianjin last week, Aug. 17. (Photo/Xinhua)

The agency is one of many government departments that regulate companies that operate with dangerous materials.

It did not give further details or mention the Tianjin blasts. It was also not possible to reach Yang, a former vice mayor of the city of 15 million people until 2012.

“PEOPLE VALUE SAFETY”

Warehouse owner Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics did not have certification to handle dangerous goods between October 2014 and June 2015 but continued to work with hazardous chemicals, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday, citing an unidentified company official.

A filing on the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) website confirmed that Ruihai Logistics did not have the correct license during that period.

Ten people, including Ruihai head Yu Xuewei and deputy head Dong Shexuan, were detained last Thursday, the official People’s Daily’s reported on its Weibo microblog on Tuesday. It has not been possible to reach the company since Thursday.

The government has confirmed there was about 700 tons of the deadly chemical sodium cyanide in the warehouse that blew up.

Displaced residents vented their frustration at the lack of government transparency at a protest outside a 3-km (2-mile) exclusion zone earlier on Tuesday.

“Chinese people really value safety,” said a man, surnamed Zhu, whose home was about a kilometer from the blast site. “Do you think if we knew there were dangerous chemicals so near we would have bought the apartment?”

Hundreds of people who lived near the blast site have demanded that the government arrange compensation or buy back their apartments.

Zong Guoying, party secretary of Tianjin’s Binhai district, said a service center had been set up for those whose houses had been damaged.

Rescuers stand near damaged vehicles close to the site of last week’s explosions at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 17, 2015.
REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON

Fitch Ratings said insurance losses from the explosions could be material for Chinese insurance companies and potentially exceed $1 billion-$1.5 billion.

Several dozen nurses and other medical workers carried white flowers as they observed a period of silence outside a hospital where the injured were being treated, one of several memorials held on Tuesday.

“In life, you are not often confronted with these kinds of disasters, whether natural or man-made,” said Ji Tao, a doctor. “The dead have passed away but the living are stronger.”

Prosecutors in Tianjin said earlier they were investigating two senior officials from Binhai district on suspicion of corruption, although they did not specify whether the charges were linked to the blasts.

(Additional reporting by Sue-Lin Wong and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Writing by Sue-Lin Wong and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Kazunori Takada and Paul Tait)

Related:

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 7, 2015 — Jesus Says “I am with you always.”

April 6, 2015

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Two disciples — Peter and John — at the tomb, Henry Ossawa Tanner

Reading 1 Acts 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 and 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Ps 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Art: Jesus Appearing to the Magdalene by Fra Angelico

Gospel Jn 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.
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Art: Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb by Rembrandt c.1638 (She thought Jesus was the gardener)
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Commentary on John 20:11-18 from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the Father.” A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death.
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At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
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The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
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So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Art: Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene by Fontana Lavinia

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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ENCOUNTERING THE RISEN LORD ON HIS OWN TERMS

07 April 2015, Tuesday within the Octave of Easter

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  ACTS 2:36-41; JN 20:11-18

Many people are seeking to encounter the Risen Lord but never encountered Him.  What could be the reasons for failing to encounter the Lord?  The truth is that we all want to encounter Him on our own terms rather than in the way the Lord wants us to encounter Him.  We are basically self-willed and self-centered.  That is what many of us do in relationships. We profess that we love them when in truth we love ourselves more.  We want to love them but only on our own terms rather on the terms of our beloved.  So what is frustrating is that many of us are imposing our friendship on others and making demands on our relationships or loving them the way we like to love, so much so that those whom we “supposedly” love feel pressurized, stifled or even made use of, since they are being loved, not for their sake but for our sake.   If we truly love someone, then it is important that we love the person in the way that the person wants to be loved, for only then can he or she feel our love, since we are putting their interests before ours.  This is the true meaning of love.  In the same way too, in our encounter with the Risen Christ, we must be ready to meet Him on His terms and not ours.  What then are His terms?  Repent and receive the forgiveness of sins!  This was what Peter said when the Jews asked Him, “What must we do?”  He replied, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Before we can see the Risen Lord, we must seek repentance of heart.  So long as we remain in our sins and refuse to acknowledge and confess them with a contrite heart, we will not be able to see Jesus. The crowd, we are told at Pentecost, “were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’”  Are we cut to the quick upon hearing a homily or reading the Word that convicts us of our sins?  If not, there will be no change in our lives.  The truth is that for many of us, even if we know our sins, we are not cut to the heart and therefore we have neither real contrition nor repentance of our sins.

What could be some of these sins?  Firstly, we could be wallowing in self-pity like Mary Magdalene.  She was crying and weeping apparently for Jesus, but in reality, it was for herself.  In her sadness and grief, she could not recognize the Lord.  We too could be allowing our self-preoccupation to hinder us from recognizing the Lord who comes to us in so many ways each day, through nature, events and persons.  More often than not, we allow our hurts, un-forgiveness, pride, envy and our loneliness to lead us into self-pity.  Today, the Lord is asking us to reach out instead, to look out and to look up if we want to find Him.  Indeed, we are told Mary did that.  Initially, she was looking down and then it was the second time when she looked up that she could recognize Jesus when He called her by name.  Yes, we must stop thinking about ourselves and start loving God and others, for it is in reaching out to them that we allow God to find us through them.

Secondly, if we cannot encounter the Risen Lord, it is because we are clinging to our own vision and idea of how the Lord should be meeting us.  We heard how others have experienced the Lord and we think that we, too, will experience Him in the same manner. This is tantamount to clinging to the earthly Jesus that Mary Magdalene knew and loved.  But Jesus comes on His own terms, in a new way and in a way beyond our imagination.  That is why Jesus wanted her to move to another level of faith and relationship with Him, in spirit.  He told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Similarly, Peter told the people,The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ. … The promise that was made is for you and your children and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.”  The resurrection of Jesus too was an amazing event, for how could a carpenter and a condemned criminal of Nazareth be raised from the dead!  So are we ready to be open to the impossible, or do we restrict the power and the wisdom of God from act in the way He has chosen for us?

Thirdly, it could be because we have no real love for Jesus.  Mary truly loves the Lord.  Her love for the Lord was not an intellectual love.  She loved Him deeply from her heart.  This love is shown in her desire to see Him.  This love is manifested in her devotion to Jesus, going to the tomb to anoint His body, crying when she discovered His body was missing.   How much do we long for Jesus?  I think we long to see our loved ones much more than we long to see Jesus or be with Him.  We pay lip service of love to Jesus but we hardly spend time with Him and we hardly miss His presence in our daily life. We come to Him only when we need Him, not because we love Him but because we want Him to do something for us.  If we truly want to seek Him, we must long for His presence and desire Him.  When we love Him sufficiently, we will be able to recognize His presence when He comes.  Indeed, for those whom we love, we can instinctively recognize their presence. 

But it is not sufficient to give up sins; we must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The truth is that we cannot find Him unless He first finds us.  We must initially desire Him by our repentance.  Once we give up our sins, He will see our sincerity and desire and seek us out, just as He sought Mary in the garden.  Mary was able to recognize Him only because the Lord took the initiative of calling her.  We too can find Him, but only when we see Him with our whole heart.

To encounter the Lord, we must be called by name.  Indeed, in all the conversion experience stories in the bible, one common thread is that all of them were called by name.  Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the prophets and of course the apostles, were called by the Lord by name.  To be called by name implies a certain intimacy.  All of us get excited or pay attention when someone addresses us by name.  Without a name, we are nobody.  When someone does not know us by name, we are impersonal to him/her.  That is why a personal relationship begins with calling the other person by name.   To call a person by name in the bible means that we know the person and the person knows us.  To encounter the Risen Lord, have you heard Him calling you by name, as He called Magdalene who immediately could then recognize her master?

But how can we hear the Lord calling us by name unless we are available to Him?  We must listen to Him calling us.  And how can this happen unless we listen to Him?  He comes to us through the Word of God, through the teachers of the Church, through our superiors and through our brothers and sisters.  The question is, do we listen to Him and allow Him to speak to us?  Unless we are ready to be like Mary Magdalene who pondered and prayed at the tomb of Jesus, we can never listen to His voice calling us by name.  How could any good Catholic live his  Christian life without withdrawing from the world for a few days in a retreat to spend time listening to the voice of the Lord speaking to him and affirming him of His personal love for him?

To encounter the Lord deeply, there is one more thing we must do.  We must not possess Him selfishly for ourselves.  We are called to share what we have received, namely, the joy of being with Him.   Obedience in faith is what is required of us if we want our relationship with Jesus to grow and deepen.   Again, that was what Mary did.  She was instructed to go and tell the brothers about what she saw.  Even though she was ridiculed, yet by sharing the marvelous event of the resurrection, her faith grew because the disciples’ faith eventually grew as well.  This is true also in friendships.  Only when we are ready to share our friends with others, can we find real happiness.  So let us continue during this Easter Octave to remain with Jesus the Risen Lord in prayer so that having encountered Him and heard Him calling us by name, we too can also proclaim to others convincingly and joyfully that we have seen the Lord.

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.Lectio Divina from the Carmelites.Reflection.

• Today’s Gospel describes the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene. The death if her great friend urges Mary to lose the sense of life. But she does not give up her search. She goes to the tomb in order to meet again the one whom death has taken away. There are moments in our life in which everything crumbles. It seems that everything is finished. Death, disasters, pain and suffering, disillusions, betrayals! So many things which may cause us to feel in the air, without standing on firm ground and which can lead us to fall into a deep crisis. But other things also happen. For example, that suddenly we meet a friend again and that can give us hope anew and can make us discover that love is stronger than death and defeat.
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• Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel, besides the apparitions of Jesus to Magdalene, it also speaks about diverse episodes which reveal the richness, indicate the richness of the experience of the Resurrection: (a) to the beloved disciple and to Peter (Jn 20, 1-10); (b) to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20, 11-18); (c) to the community of disciples (Jn 20, 19-23) and (d) to the Apostle Thomas (Jn 20, 24-29). The purpose of the writing of the Gospel is that of leading persons to believe in Jesus, and believing in him, to have life (Jn 20, 30-3).
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• In the way of describing the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene one perceives, one is aware of the different stages of the road that she had to follow, of the sorrowful search up to the time of the encounter at Easter. These are also the stages through which we all have to pass, throughout our life, seeking God and living the Gospel.
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• John 20, 11-13: Mary Magdalene weeps, but she seeks. There was a very strong love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She was one of the few persons who had the courage to remain with Jesus up to the moment of his death on the Cross. After the obligatory rest on Saturday, she goes back to the tomb to be in the place where she had met her Beloved for the last time. But, surprisingly, the tomb is empty! The angels ask her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” and her response is: “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have put him!” Mary Magdalene looked for Jesus, that Jesus whom she had known during three years.
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• John 20, 14-15: Mary Magdalene speaks with Jesus without knowing him. The Disciples of Emmaus saw Jesus but they did not recognize him. She thinks that he is the gardener. And just as the angels had done, Jesus also asks: “Why are you weeping?” and he adds: “Who are you looking for?” The response: “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him and I will go and get him”. She was still looking for the Jesus of the past, the same one of three days before. And it is precisely the image of the Jesus of the past which prevents her to recognize the living Jesus, who is present before her.
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• John 20, 16: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. Jesus pronounces the name: “Mary!” This was the sign to recognize him: the same voice, the same way of pronouncing the name. She answers: “Master!” Jesus had returned the same, as the one who had died on the cross. The first impression was that death was only a painful incident on the journey, but now everything has again become as before. Mary embraces Jesus strongly. He was the same Jesus whom she had known and loved. And thus, is fulfilled what the Parable of the Good Shepherd said: “He calls them by name and they recognize his voice”. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn 10, 3.4.14).
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• John 20, 17-18: Mary Magdalene receives the mission to announce the resurrection to the Apostles. In fact, it is the same Jesus, but the way of being together with her is not the same as before. Jesus tells her: “Do not cling to me, because I have not as yet ascended to the Father!” He goes toward the Father. Mary Magdalene has to let Jesus go and assume her mission: to announce to the brothers that he, Jesus, has ascended to the Father. Jesus has opened up the way for us and thus, once more, God is close to us.
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Personal questions
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• Have you ever had an experience which has given you the impression of loss and of death? How was it? What is it that gave you new life and gave you the hope and the joy of living?
• Which is the change that took place in Mary Magdalene throughout the dialogue? Mary Magdalene was looking for Jesus in a certain way and found him in a different way. How does this take place in our life?
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Concluding Prayer
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We are waiting for Yahweh;
he is our help and our shield,
for in him our heart rejoices,
in his holy name we trust.
Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,
as our hope has rested in you. (Ps 33,20-22)
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Pope Francis Blesses All Filipinos: May the Holy Spirit touch the hearts of all the people here

January 15, 2015

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Pope Francis, right, accompanied by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, left, archbishop of Manila, waves to Filipinos as he arrives in Manila, Philippines Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. AP

MANILA, Philippines—“The Holy Spirit will have to work to touch all the hearts of these people that we see.”

A “very impressed” Pope Francis uttered these words to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on board the “popemobile” as tens of thousands of ecstatic Filipinos took to the streets to catch a glimpse of him Thursday night.

Francis, the third pope to visit the Philippines, arrived around 5:30 p.m. to a rousing welcome led by President Aquino at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

Tagle, who was with Francis during the brief drive under heavy security from Villamor to the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, pegged the crowd at “2 to 3 million,” said the Vatican spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi, who described the turnout as “very impressive.”

Lombardi said Francis’ “first encounter with the Filipino people” left a “very strong first impression” on the Pontiff. He said it also gave Francis “an idea of what will be the importance of [his] presence to the Filipino people” for the rest of his trip.

“From the very beginning of his pontificate, this journey to the Philippines was a necessity,” Lombardi said in a press conference.

“It was necessary to come to this very important nation that is the center of the Catholic Church in this continent. To come here is to come to the center of the Catholic Church in Asia, and from here you can see presence of the Church in this fundamental continent.”

Francis’ first official activity on Friday (Jan. 16) is the welcome ceremony in Malacañang where he is scheduled to meet briefly with President Aquino.

Lombardi said the meeting would be more of a “personal occasion of encounter,” noting that “profound” discussions on issues were often left in other venues.

“The Pope prefers to have a more personal encounter. This is very characteristic of Pope Francis. He likes to encounter concrete people and know them,” he said.

“He is more attentive to the personality of the interlocutor,” he added.

Despite a hectic schedule in Sri Lanka, the first leg of his apostolic visit to Asia, and a much tougher one ahead in the Philippines, Francis was “in good health,” Lombardi said, noting that the Pope usually drew “energy from the people around him.”

Francis will deliver a message before an audience of 450 people, including senior government officials and members of the diplomatic corps, at the Palace’s Rizal Hall.

From Malacañang, he will proceed to the Manila Cathedral for a concelebrated Mass. The last item in the day’s agenda is a meeting with Filipino families at the Mall of Asia Arena in the afternoon.

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Pope Francis’ Loses His Hat in Manila Wind — Says He’ll Focus on Poor, Exploited in Philippine Trip

January 15, 2015

The Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines — Pope Francis said Thursday that his visit to the Philippines, Asia’s largest Catholic nation, will focus on the plight of the poor, the exploited and victims of injustice — themes sure to resonate in a nation where poverty afflicts nearly a fourth of the 100 million people.

Church bells tolled across the country and hundreds of children danced and waved small Philippine and Vatican flags as the pontiff emerged from his plane and was welcomed by well-wishers led by President Benigno Aquino III. A sudden gust of wind blew off his papal cap seconds after he appeared, and Francis grabbed futilely for it and then smiled and descended the stairs from the aircraft.

Pope Francis loses his skull cap as he disembarks from his plane shortly upon arrival from Sri Lanka, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, south of Manila, Philippines. Pope Francis arrived Thursday for a five-day apostolic visit in this predominantly Catholic nation in Asia. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

The pontiff revealed his priorities for the second leg of his Asian trip to reporters during his flight from Sri Lanka to Manila. He also commented on the recent attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, saying there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it ridicules or insults someone’s faith.

But Francis insisted that it was an “aberration” to kill in the name of God and said religion can never be used to justify violence.

For his visit to the Philippines, he said the “central nut of the message will be the poor, the poor who want to go forward, the poor who suffered from Typhoon Haiyan and are continuing to suffer the consequences.”

Powerful Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 dead and missing and leveled entire villages in the central Philippines in 2013, including Leyte province, where the pope will visit Saturday to console survivors.

He said he also had in mind the poor who “face so many injustices — social, spiritual, existential.”

“I think about them,” he said, referring to a recent lunch he had with some Filipino workers at the Vatican who had left their families for jobs overseas.

The Philippines is one of the world’s largest labor exporters. About a tenth of the population has left the country in search of work, and tales of their abuse and exploitation are common.

President Aquino has waged a campaign against poverty, an issue close to Francis’ heart, although the Philippine leader has clashed with the local Roman Catholic Church over a reproductive health law that promotes artificial birth control. Congress, which is dominated by Aquino’s allies, passed the legislation in 2012.

Among the pope’s welcomers on the tarmac were a boy and a girl from a shelter for street children who handed him flowers. Francis embraced and kissed them.

“I told him bienvenido (welcome),” 9-year-old Lanie Ortillo said, adding the pontiff smiled and replied, “Yes, bienvenido.” She added, “While I was hugging him I prayed that he could help more children, not only the two of us.”

Pope Francis, right, accompanied by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, left, archbishop of Manila, waves to Filipinos as he arrives in Manila, Philippines Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. Ecstatic crowds greeted Pope Francis as he arrived Thursday in the Philippines, Asia’s most populous Catholic nation, for the first papal visit in 20 years. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Francis then boarded his white, open-sided popemobile and his motorcade began rolling along the 11-kilometer (6.8-mile) route to the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, where he will stay.

Tens of thousands of people called his name and snapped pictures from behind concrete barriers topped by iron fencing and guarded by policemen along the entire stretch in a trip beamed live on TV nationwide. Francis constantly shifted from left to right, smiling and waving.

The government has declared national holidays during the pope’s visit, which runs through Monday.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, said he hopes the visit by Francis, the first Latin American head of the 1.2 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, would be festive and spiritually uplifting and nurture compassion at a time when the country is still recovering from recent deadly disasters, including Haiyan.

“It’s like a big, big, big, big national fiesta,” a beaming Tagle said in an interview on the eve of the pope’s arrival. The visit, he said, “comes at that point when people would really be helped by a moral and spiritual boost coming from someone who really cares.”

Meetings with Filipino families, Roman Catholic Church leaders and young people are also slated.

During his time in Sri Lanka, the pope traveled to the jungles of the war-torn north for a show of solidarity with the victims of the country’s 25-year civil war, urging people to forgive one another “for all the evil which this land has known.”

“It is very important to keep our country peaceful and have our religious strength become more and more after this visit,” said Sumith Periera, an engineer who came to see the pope off.

The pope’s trip has given Philippine authorities daunting security challenges, including an outdoor Mass in a historic Manila park on Sunday that officials say could draw a record 6 million people.

About 50,000 policemen and troops have been deployed to secure the pope in a country where relatively small numbers of al-Qaida-inspired militants remain a threat in the south despite more than a decade of U.S.-backed military offensives.

Spanish colonialists introduced Christianity in the 16th century and today just over 80 percent of the Philippines’ 100 million people are Catholics, with other Christians making up about 12 percent. Muslims account for 5.6 percent, most of them in the south.

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Associated Press writers Jim Gomez and Oliver Teves contributed to this report.

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 22, 2014 — Faith Enough To Seek God’s Will Without Seeing His Face

April 21, 2014

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Jesus Appearing to the Magdalene by Fra Angelico.

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Reading 1 acts 2:36-41

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On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”
.Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.
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Responsorial Psalm ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 and 22

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R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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Gospel jn 20:11-18

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Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.
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Art: Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene Fontana Lavinia. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener …. From the Gospel of John
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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We can fully empathize with the disciples at Emmaus.  They were so discouraged, especially when they had such great hopes for Jesus the Messiah. And as they recounted, Jesus proved to be such a “great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people.”  But His tragic and cruel death on the cross dashed all their hopes.  As they said, “Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.”

Just like the disciples at Emmaus, we are often very disappointed with many events in our lives.  It could be a death, a tragedy, a betrayal, an act of grave injustice done tot us, a failure or an illness.  In such situations, we cannot but feel hopeless.  At times, we feel so crippled by such experiences because of the physical, emotional and psychological pain, so much so we want to simply give up.  At times, we are just resigned to the situation.   This was the case of the man who was crippled from birth.  Day after day, year after year, he had no great hope other than that someone would carry him to the Temple gate so that he could beg for his livelihood.

When we are in such doldrums, we cannot expect to look out or look up.  Like the disciples at Emmaus, we walk with faces downcast.  Like the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate, we dare not look up to the world.  The truth is that when we are grappling with our pain, we cannot but be absorbed by our own pain.  We cannot see the light beyond our pain.  So the tendency is to withdraw and run away from our sorrows, like the disciples who were leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus.  Like the crippled man who could only hope that he would have enough to eat every day, we too only entertain small hopes.  Like the crippled man and the disciples, we do not believe that God can work wonders and change the situations we are in.

How, then, can we begin to look up and out again?  Where can we find such courage and strength?   We need to walk with the Risen Lord!  Unless the Risen Lord walks with us, we will not have the courage or strength to walk through the valley of tears.  This is what St Peter told the crippled man, “‘Look at us”. And we read that the crippled man “turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’”  So we must turn to Jesus the Risen Lord if we were to walk tall and straight again.

But where is the Risen Lord to be found?  It is significant that the gospel says that when the disciples, “drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’”  Evening again reminds us of darkness and evil.  So when we reach the dark moments in our lives, what must we do? We must welcome Jesus to stay with us.  How?  Through the breaking of bread, for we are told that while Jesus was with them at table, “he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; but he had vanished from their sight.” Hence, it is evident that the Risen Lord is found in the breaking of bread which takes two forms, namely, the Word of God and the Eucharist. 

Firstly, it is in the Word of God that the Risen Lord will speak to us. It is in the scriptures that we will see the face of the Risen Lord.  In the scriptures, God will speak to us and make clear the confusion in our lives.  In the scriptures, God will help us to understand the place of our sufferings, which is to be seen in the perspective of God’s plan.  No suffering is suffered in vain.  When we give ourselves to the Lord in obedience to His holy will, He will manifest His glorious power over our limitations.  He has done this for Jesus and He will do it for us again!  That is why we must turn to the scriptures so that Jesus can speak to us and offer us words of encouragement, wisdom and hope.

But most of all, the Risen Lord is to be found in a very special, real and sacramental manner in the Eucharist.  The celebration of the Eucharist of course is a memorial of His passion, death and resurrection.  Already at the Last Supper, Jesus anticipated His death and resurrection and His continued presence with us whenever we “do this in memory” of Him.  So in the Eucharist, Jesus comes to us in a very real way, for in remembering His passion and love for us, we also remember how sin and death were conquered by His resurrection from the dead.  The Eucharist therefore is a source of strength for us in our passion and a source of hope for us in living from the future.

Isn’t this the experience of those who read the Word of God prayerfully, slowly and meditatively?  Isn’t this the experience of those who celebrate the Eucharist daily with devotion and fervor?  In giving ourselves to the Word and in the Eucharist, our experience is no less than that of the disciples of Emmaus when “they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’”  We know that Jesus is truly risen indeed when we experience the love, warmth and presence of Jesus in our hearts.  Yes, only in the Word and in the Eucharist, can we see Jesus, for the disciples too had their eyes opened and saw Jesus at the breaking of the bread.

When our hearts are warmed with the love of God, we too become joyful and liberated people.  So like them, instead of withdrawing from Jerusalem, we will return to wherever we are to announce the Good News that Jesus is truly risen indeed.  Yes, the evangelist writes, “They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’”

Yes, if the going is tough and if we find ourselves helpless, then we must turn to Jesus and look to Him for our salvation and liberation. Just as He strengthened the crippled man’s feet, He will put us upright as well.  Jesus never fails.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead means that God will triumph,regardless of the apparent failures in our lives and the scandals of history.  Let us give our lives to Jesus, including all our disappointments and failures, so that He can turn them around and give us hope and courage to live from the certainty of triumph.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/22-april-2014-tuesday-within-the-octave-of-easter/#sthash.viHNK6FG.dpuf

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http://www.csctr.net/

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Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn: The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen
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She thought it was the gardener …. The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen by Rembrandt
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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Reflection

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• Today’s Gospel describes the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene. The death if her great friend urges Mary to lose the sense of life. But she does not give up her search. She goes to the tomb in order to meet again the one whom death has taken away. There are moments in our life in which everything crumbles. It seems that everything is finished. Death, disasters, pain and suffering, disillusions, betrayals! So many things which may cause us to feel in the air, without standing on firm ground and which can lead us to fall into a deep crisis. But other things also happen. For example, that suddenly we meet a friend again and that can give us hope anew and can make us discover that love is stronger than death and defeat.
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• Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel, besides the apparitions of Jesus to Magdalene, it also speaks about diverse episodes which reveal the richness, indicate the richness of the experience of the Resurrection: (a) to the beloved disciple and to Peter (Jn 20, 1-10); (b) to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20, 11-18); (c) to the community of disciples (Jn 20, 19-23) and (d) to the Apostle Thomas (Jn 20, 24-29). The purpose of the writing of the Gospel is that of leading persons to believe in Jesus, and believing in him, to have life (Jn 20, 30-3).
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• In the way of describing the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene one perceives, one is aware of the different stages of the road that she had to follow, of the sorrowful search up to the time of the encounter at Easter. These are also the stages through which we all have to pass, throughout our life, seeking God and living the Gospel.
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• John 20, 11-13: Mary Magdalene weeps, but she seeks. There was a very strong love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She was one of the few persons who had the courage to remain with Jesus up to the moment of his death on the Cross. After the obligatory rest on Saturday, she goes back to the tomb to be in the place where she had met her Beloved for the last time. But, surprisingly, the tomb is empty! The angels ask her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” and her response is: “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have put him!” Mary Magdalene looked for Jesus, that Jesus whom she had known during three years.
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• John 20, 14-15: Mary Magdalene speaks with Jesus without knowing him. The Disciples of Emmaus saw Jesus but they did not recognize him. She thinks that he is the gardener. And just as the angels had done, Jesus also asks: “Why are you weeping?” and he adds: “Who are you looking for?” The response: “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him and I will go and get him”. She was still looking for the Jesus of the past, the same one of three days before. And it is precisely the image of the Jesus of the past which prevents her to recognize the living Jesus, who is present before her.
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• John 20, 16: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. Jesus pronounces the name: “Mary!” This was the sign to recognize him: the same voice, the same way of pronouncing the name. She answers: “Master!” Jesus had returned the same, as the one who had died on the cross. The first impression was that death was only a painful incident on the journey, but now everything has again become as before. Mary embraces Jesus strongly. He was the same Jesus whom she had known and loved. And thus, is fulfilled what the Parable of the Good Shepherd said: “He calls them by name and they recognize his voice”. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn 10, 3.4.14).
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• John 20, 17-18: Mary Magdalene receives the mission to announce the resurrection to the Apostles. In fact, it is the same Jesus, but the way of being together with her is not the same as before. Jesus tells her: “Do not cling to me, because I have not as yet ascended to the Father!” He goes toward the Father. Mary Magdalene has to let Jesus go and assume her mission: to announce to the brothers that he, Jesus, has ascended to the Father. Jesus has opened up the way for us and thus, once more, God is close to us.
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Personal questions
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• Have you ever had an experience which has given you the impression of loss and of death? How was it? What is it that gave you new life and gave you the hope and the joy of living?
• Which is the change that took place in Mary Magdalene throughout the dialogue? Mary Magdalene was looking for Jesus in a certain way and found him in a different way. How does this take place in our life?
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Concluding Prayer
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We are waiting for Yahweh;
he is our help and our shield,
for in him our heart rejoices,
in his holy name we trust.
Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,
as our hope has rested in you. (Ps 33,20-22)
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Philippines: Archbishop Says Typhoons, Earthquakes Remind to Us Not to Forget God

November 24, 2013

Ramon Arguelles, the Archibishop of Lipa told ABS-CBN that disasters such as the recent earthquake, flood and super typhoon could be the result of “ungoldy” actions.

“Pinapaalaala sa atin na huwag tayong makalimot sa buhay. Even our life, nasa kamay ng Diyos so we better make it meaningful,” Arguelles said in the interview.

He said the these calamities should be a reminder to Filipinos not to forget God.

Here is what Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles thinks about the calamities that hit the Philippines.  He said that it should be a reminder for Filipinos not to forget God.

“Those that happened to us, earthquakes, floods, super typhoon, is a reminder to all of us, ” he said via ABS-CBN.

He also believes that the disasters send a message to people.

“It will remind us not to forget life. Our lives is in God’s hands so we better make it meaningful, ” Arguelles said.

“Let us not forget him. We removed him eh, like making a law that is not based in God. So when we oppose God, we are in danger.”

However , the archbishop said Filipinos should be thankful for the generosity and unity that people show in the aftermath of the calamities.

“Like the victims, they are closer to God now more than ever and we too as well and hopefully during better times.”

Arguelles said recent calamities should serve as a reminder for people to avoid going against God’s rule.

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“Let us not forget him. Inaalis natin siya eh, katulad niyan ginagawang batas ang hindi ayon sa loob ng Diyos. So when we oppose God, we are in danger. Katulad ng mga nasalanta, they are closer to God now more than ever and tayo rin at dapat ganyan at sana during better times,” he continued.

Calamities have been often interpreted by many as an act of God.

He warned that laws like the Reproductive Health (RH) Law in the Philippines may cause God some problems….. He called the law “ungodly.”.