While the world has watched for 69 days, many worked together to find a way to save the lives of the 33 miners trapped in the collapsed underworld of a Chilean mine.
Miraculously, on that 69 th day, they rose to the surface of the world, one by one, to be greeted by family, friends, government officials, the world's press and the world itself. It really was a resurrection of sorts. They could have all easily perished had not the efforts of many been combined to achieve the goal of reaching them, sustaining them with food, water and medical supplies, accessing them by drilling the shafts and designing the capsule to transport them back to life itself. All could easily have lost hope if every person involved had not become one in purpose and one in spirit. The miners could still easily become splintered if they fail to honor the commitments that they have made to each other while isolated in that dark netherworld.
Truly, they encountered hell and they experienced heaven.
As I watched the whole rescue effort unfold over the last ten weeks, many scriptural and theological images flooded my mind: the miners became Jonahs in the belly of the whale, the loaves and fishes became rationed sardines on saltine crackers, the waiting became the dark night of the soul, the faith of the miners, the rescuers and the families and friends became the lived trust of the Israelites waiting to be delivered from bondage, the breakthrough of the drill bit became the hope of the resurrection, the opening of the capsule became Lazarus emerging from the tomb.
I also kept thinking about the miracles that can be wrought by human beings when they work together for the common good, leaving no one out, focusing on assisting others rather than bickering about differences, ensuring that all have their needs met equally. The miners supported each other, lifting each other up, physically and spiritually, just as Aaron and Hur lifted up the sagging, tired old arms of Moses when they were confronting a situation that could have destroyed them.
Those on the ground above the miners, those all over the world who contributed to the rescue effort in so many divergent ways, from designing the capsule to descending into the hell hole to assist the miners, those family, friends, and global strangers who kept vigil night and day for the entire time, praying persistently and persevering in hope, all these lifted up the arms of the sagging, tired miners who were so perilously confronted by the collapsed mine.
Together they faced the dangers and stayed committed to "preaching the Word." Do you understand what that means? St. Francis of Assisi is thought to have said, "Preach the Gospel; if necessary, use words." The miners, the rescue workers, those who prayed, all of them preached the Word...... by living it.
They lived the Word by assisting and allowing themselves to be assisted.
They lived the Word by being patient in their instructing.
They lived the Word by persevering in their prayers which sustained them all.
They lived the Word by not giving up hope.
God worked through the actions of a multitude of people who were all committed to saving others.
That they were saved, says a great deal about the wisdom of the scriptures today. We all need to help and be helped by others. We all need to be lifted up at times. We all preach the Gospel by the lives we lead.....or not.......and we all need to pray persistently. Praying persistently means showing up and letting God's action work through us, by being available, by caring about what happens to others, by helping them in their need no matter the cost to us.
Love is, in the end, what saves us all. Prayer is love in action, not a to-do list for God. Persistent prayer brings us together and holds us in community for the common good.
What happened this week in Chile was not a miracle; It was the abundance of God's Love infusing the human spirit that made possible the emergence of 33 Lazarus' walk out of that tomb. BUT....What a shame that it takes the sudden, acute collapse of an ordered world to bring us human beings to the point of being able to preach the Gospel with our lives. A mine cave in, a tsunami, a fire, a hurricane, an earthquake. They all command our attention and desire to help.......and they should. BUT, what if all the world's millions of poor , hungry and sick were to be beneficiaries of this same kind of global commitment and world focus, the same kind of intense communal effort to deliver them from the chronic, living hell of their trapped lives? What if the trafficked, the exploited, the undocumented immigrants and enslaved of our planet were brought to the surface of life? Would they be greeted by cheers of joy and tears of happiness, because they, the chronic captives had been liberated from their collapsed worlds? What if those captives were set free by the extraordinary collective efforts of the world? Now......... that would be a miracle!