Wednesday, October 13, 2010
For a few, all too brief shinning hours, the world actually seemed to come together to witness, through television pictures, 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped a little more than 2,000 feet below the surface for nearly seventy days. It was a stunning accomplishment. The success of the rescue happened in the way it did because for once, a multitude of nations came together to determine the best way to save the lives of the imprisoned men.
We witnessed some of the most remarkable technology the 21st century has to offer. A space age capsule designed in large part by NASA, served as the lifeboat for the victims of the cave in. The capsule was equipped with lighting so as to ease the fears of the miners as the device rose slowly to the surface. It also had oxygen on board in case the men felt a need for such a thing. Blue tooth technology was employed in order to keep in constant communication with the rescued worker as he ascended. A liquid drink developed by NASA provided the needed calories to help the men maintain their strength during the harrowing ride to the top. A simple, yet, I am sure, complex system was invented to lift the capsule from the floor of the chamber that housed the men for these past 70 days. In short, the whole rescue mission was a tribute to the intelligence and creativity of man.
But there was another element at work in all of this.
Many of the miners, upon reaching the surface, either knelt to give thanks, or made the sign of the cross to symbolize their gratitude to God. This aspect of the story cannot and must not be overlooked. Each man seemed to have a deepened faith due to this ordeal.
The trials through which these brave souls passed could not even be imagined by you and I. Can you really imagine what it must be like to be entombed in a small room with 33 others for 70 days not knowing whether or not you'll ever see the light of day again? And, yet, these men have survived! And while this accomplishment is a testament to the mind of man, it must also be seen as an act of mercy by a kind and loving God.
In light of the success of the rescue mission, we must understand that God alone can bring good from bad. He is the author of life and can do anything He pleases. Nothing is impossible with God! (cf Lk 1: 47) All of us are heirs to His mercy not because of anything we have done to deserve it, but because of the sacrifice His Son made for us.
Ever since the first miner came to the surface, stories of the men feeling the presence of a 34th person have circulated. The press covering this story has chosen to either ignore it or, at best, gingerly and almost sheepishly, mentioned it as an aside. But I am certain that these men did experience the presence of that unnamed 34th person. I believe, as do many of them, that they experienced in a very real way the presence of Jesus Christ.
We can all learn a lesson from these men. In their time of supreme struggle, they somehow found a way to not only survive but to maintain a healthy quality of life despite their surroundings. Their faith increased as they realized that the only real thing they possessed was their belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior. This belief sustained them, I am sure, through some of the bleakest moments underground. Those first seventeen days when it was not known if they were dead or alive had to the among the darkest of days for them. Then they were given the news that while they might be rescued after all, that rescue probably would not come until Christmas at the very earliest. The world paused and much of it offered up prayers daily for the successful return of these men to the world. And those prayers were answered.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." (Eph 1: 3) Thus, in the end, this whole long and drawn out trial can be seen as God creating something good from something bad. It would have been very easy for the miners to have sunk into deep despair over their situation and I am sure they did experience moments of depression. But they maintained their faith in God through the knowledge that God is a just and merciful God. They also knew that the world above was praying for them. Pope Benedict XVI sent them rosaries that he blessed and kept track of them day in and day out from the Vatican.
What we have witnessed is, indeed, a miracle. There is no other word about it. Man's ingenuity and creativity is a reflection of God Himself. The men in the mine were certainly not alone in their ordeal. Neither were those who diligently worked night and day on solving the problem by discovering solutions. And neither are you and I. We are, in fact, never alone. Jesus, by His Holy Spirit, is with us always! We, too, have the gift from God that the miners felt. We have His Divine presence with us all the days of our lives. And what a miracle that is! We give thanks for the successful outcome of the disaster in Chile. And, most importantly, we must give thanks for such a loving God!