Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hope and thankfulness…

Just as in other years, this 24th of November we celebrate Thanksgiving day in the United States. The observance of this day reminds us of the encounter between two cultures on North American soil: European culture and the indigenous North American culture. The classical and obvious nature of this commemoration can veil the importance of the message transmitted in this holiday: GIVING THANKS, BEING GRATEFUL.

In this transition from modern society to post-modernity, where we are inundated by science, technology, the power and pride produced by money and arms, we can easily lose the ability to be grateful, which can also mean losing the ability to be happy. Happy is the man who by opening his senses to all that is and all that surrounds him, who by contemplating the daily miracle and the marvels that fill human existence, is able to be grateful for everything as a gift, something unearned.

Today we run the risk of believing that what we have and can achieve is due to our ability to acquire, to buy, to negotiate, to earn, to struggle and thus obtain. All this veils the reality of human life as a free gift. To give thanks implies to contemplate, admire; it implies the ability to be amazed; but it also implies, in consequence, the responsibility to build human community in which everyone ―not just a few― sense the motive and opportunity to give thanks always, and not just on Thanksgiving Day.

In the paradox that is humanity, in those complex and multiple dimensions that constitute and define our mystery, as both angel and beast, that is to say, capable of enormous evil and of great heroism, an event has united all men and women in these days, from around the world: the rescue of thirty three Chilean miners trapped in their work place. An occurrence that combined the attention and news coverage, second by second, by the most important communication media in the world, and which, in order to carry out their plan, were able to count on the assistance of the best science and technology for such a situation, with a sense of solidarity and prayers on the part of everyone.

The name of the encampment at the site of the entrance to the mine: HOPE [ESPERANZA], describes in the best way what the event means for humanity at this juncture of so many changes, convulsions, contradictions, needs, urgencies of every type and in every place on earth.

The successful rescue of the thirty three miners, thanks to the joint effort of everyone involved, speaks to us of the greatness of which the human being is capable when the best of our humanity is released to reveal the depth of divinity: the image of God the Creator in His creation. It also reminds us of the significance of hope, even when ―as the apostle said― the motive to continue to hope is absent.

More than that, the rescued miners, their families, the entire nation of Chile and everyone who followed the event from the time of the accident until its happy culmination have expressed THANKSGIVING TO GOD the Giver of life, from whom is derived all that is beautiful, good, noble and perfect.

Why is it that the rescue of thirty three Chilean miners and one Bolivian so deeply moved the vast human family? It was because ―bombarded by wars, hunger, administrative corruption, immorality of all kinds, walls of isolation, terrorism, fraud and economic crisis, etc. ―for so long humanity has not known such an example of human nobility that lifts the dignity of the entire human race.

This tragedy with its happy ending has brought together an extraordinary legend with which we can all identify because in everyone there is an innate, natural and creaturely heartbeat: the divine tendency toward life, liberty, justice, greatness, nobility. The Atacama Desert in Chile is today a sign and symbol of what can be done through unity, prayer, hope, gratitude and the best of human instinct.

Prior to this historical milestone no one dreamed that in these times of cultural relativism, individualism, pragmatism and hedonism such as ours, someone could write of an event that lacks nothing when compared with the great stories of heroes of ancient times. One of the miners said: “I was face to face with God and the devil and I struggled. God gave me victory, I took hold of the best hand offered me and never doubted that God was going to get me out…”. In the end, the head of the rescue operations was the one the miners recognized on their T-shirts with the phrase that we cannot forget: “Thank you, Lord!”

Therefore, on this day of THANKSGIVING we can say as a family: “We give thanks to God, thanks to the miners and to Chile for reminding us of the sublime nobility of belonging to the human race, the greatness of being human and the dignity of being children of God, brothers together on all occasions”.