After the cave

We rejoice with the freeing of all of the boys (and their coach and rescuers) from the cave in Thailand (as Dave Jolivet wrote on page 23, we also pray for the soul of Saman Kunan, who gave his life trying to save them). Dave expresses well the exultation and gratitude to God which resounds all over the world this week from that cave complex.

However, now we become aware again (or maybe we don’t) of so many other hundreds, thousands, millions of people whose tragedies don’t get our attention, our solidarity, our collaboration to save them. As the killer of more than 40 million people (Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin) once supposedly said to the U.S. ambassador, “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.”

One wonders about how these boys, who were not even visible for more than a week, were able to move hearts all around the world, while the pictures of dead children on the shores of the Mediterranean did not move many hearts in Europe or the images of crying children on our border bring skepticism about whether these are legitimate refugees or the images of children torn from the womb elicit no sympathy from half of our country (the last two examples often bring very different responses from the same people — only a minority in our country are concerned about both sets of children).

Jesus, when He walked this earth for 33 years, knew human nature. No one had to teach Him about the human heart. He knew how some people could look beyond a healing miracle He did and only notice that it was done on the Sabbath, thus potentially making it a sinful action (violating the Third Commandment). He also knew other people, people who had made sinful mistakes in life or who had been born outside of Judaism, and yet some of these people were open to the new path of holiness that He offered, even though it meant making big changes in their lives.

In between these two groups of people were decent people, good Jews, who were conscious of their imperfections, but tried the best that they could do to live a life in accordance with God’s law. These people may have been surprised by Jesus’ outreach to the second group mentioned above, but many came to understand what He was doing because their own examinations of conscience kept them from condemning Him or them.

We Catholics living today might be similar to any of the people in these three groups. It is not easy to always be conscious of our own unworthiness. St. Augustine, last Sunday in the “Office of Readings” in the “Breviary,” reminded us, “Let us never assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon. But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others.”

The more we are conscious of our dependence upon God’s mercy, the more likely it is that we will be merciful to others. People engaged in the works of mercy to help free those boys in Thailand: corporally, people there in Thailand fed them, gave them something to drink, visited them (in their sickly, “imprisoned” condition), did what they could to improve their shelter and buried their dead rescuer. Spiritually, people around the world engaged in the Spiritual work of praying for the living boys and their rescuers and prayed for the soul of the man who died. May we heed God’s call to carry out the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy for more individuals and multitudes, around the corner and around the world.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts