Saturday, November 27, 2010

Homily: 1st Sunday of Advent "Chilean Miners Rescued"

In darkness over 2,000 feet below the surface of the earth, 33 Chilean men were trapped in a mine that collapsed on August 5th. They were thought to be dead by many.

Eight Percussion drills were used to explore the mine in search of the miners. The rescue effort was complicated by out-of-date maps of the mine shafts and several boreholes drifting off-target because of the extreme drilling depth and the notoriously hard rock that caused the drills to drift. One of the probes reached a space where the miners were believed to be trapped but found no signs of life.

17 days after finding nothing, the eighth borehole broke through. For days, in the silence, the miners had heard the drills approaching. Through Though the drilling engineers had thought they heard tapping on the drill tip, they were surprised to discover the notes when the drill bit was pulled out, they discovered a note indicating the miners were alive. The white paper note was written with red ink and attached to the drill bit: "We are alright in the shelter, the 33 [of us].

From the day the mine collapsed, dozens of relatives staked out what they call Camp Hope near the mouth of the mine, where they have built shrines, composed songs and prayed intensely for their loved ones below.

Family members of the trapped miners reacted with joy at the news that their loved ones were alive. There hope was not disappointed.
Below, miner Edison Pena ran 6 miles daily through the mine's tunnels to beat the anxiety, wearing cut-down boots until rescuers sent him a pair of sneakers through a narrow bore hole that served as the miners' umbilical cord to the surface.
"When I ran in the darkness, I was running for life," Pena said, "I was running to show that I wasn't just waiting around. ... I also wanted God to see that I really wanted to live."

While trapped in the darkness the 33 men struggled to communicate with the outside world through video, letters and even poetry. Now, as the rescue process continues, the men have begun speaking their first words above ground in more than 69 days.

Mario Sepulveda: remembers “I was with God and I was with the devil; they fought me but God won. He took me by my best hand, the hand of God, and I held on to him. I never thought for one minute that God wouldn't get me out of there. I believe this was a test... I believe that God does test people and I believe that we have the possibility to confront things in life such as what we had to confront, ... but I'm very happy that it happened to me because I believe it was the moment in which to make changes.”

Another Miner, Jimmy Sanchesz who was only 19 years old wrote in a note to his wife shortly before the rescue mission began: "There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here," He also described how his love for his daughter helped him survive the darkest moments. "In the toughest times I thanked God I had a daughter."

Less than an hour before midnight 69 days after the collapse, a rescue worker stepped into the capsule — named the Phoenix — painted with the red, white and blue of the Chilean flag. A mesh door was closed behind him. Then he descended toward the 33 miners trapped below, as President Sebastián Piñera, who has staked his presidency on rescuing the miners, watched with the families as he slowly disappeared into the darkness to retrieve the trapped miners.

Upon reaching the surface and coming out into the light surrounded by the rescuers, and his loved ones, Mario Gomez Heredia dropped to his knees in prayer: "I looked back on my life; I'm a different man now; I'm a changed man," he said a few hours later.

Today we begin the first Sunday of Advent. Though the miners spent 69 days in darkness, the Season of Advent will be 27 days this year. As the miner’s struggled to communicate with their families above, we struggle to communicate with God in the darkness. Often times we grope and stumble yearning for him to break through to us. We grasp clumsily in prayer and slip and fall in our relations with one another. We may find ourselves imprisoned with hard hearts and deep walls, but he can break through our darkness at any moment.

During this time of Advent, we like the miners must hold on to the hope that the prophet Isaiah proclaims to us: “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;”

Imagine yourself in that mine as we enter into Advent. In the darkness and the silence listen intently for God’s drill approaching to break through and rescue us. Imagine that Christ the Savior will descend into your darkness and lift you up through that shaft into the light. And yes, above unseen, but not separate, you do have the entire Communion of Saints interceding for you, praying vigilantly for you. This time of Advent can be a time where God “may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”

It may also be a time for bringing things into the light. “The night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day.” We all know that one of the miners had things brought to the light that he probably would have rather kept in darkness. Is there anything in your life right now that is in darkness that you wouldn’t want brought to the light? Maybe this Advent is a time of letting that go. So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Use this next 29 days as a time of conversion so that you too can echo the words of a rescued miner: "I looked back on my life; I'm a different man now; I'm a changed man,"

Let us walk in the light of the Lord!

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