Monday, August 13, 2018

If being rescued from a cave is good news, being rescued from sin is great news.

An incident that happened in July grabbed the attention and imagination of millions, if not billions all over the world.  The world was gripped by how 12 teenage boys trapped in the Tham Luang cave, with their soccer coach for 17 days were dramatically rescued from what would most likely be certain death.  

People all over the world prayed for the safe return of these boys and their coach to the loving arms of their family, as well as the safety of the rescue workers.  Apparently, this rescue effort involved more than 1000 courageous and selfless rescue workers made up of Thai Navy Seals, cave diving experts from countries including the U.K. and Canada as well as numerous Thai military and navy personnel who risked life and limb to bring those trapped in the bowels of that cavern to safety and eventually back to their loved ones.  It was truly moving to see how this one incident galvanized and activated worldwide help and expertise, resulting in a sense of esprit de corps among the many rescue workers.

News reports and video footage of this massive rescue operation prompted me to see how this event serves as an excellent metaphor of our redemption in Christ.  After all, our salvation from being mired in sin required a rescue operation of truly epic and divine proportions. 

I am sure some book and probably a movie or two will reveal the whys this group took this seemingly harmless trek into those caves.  It all started very innocently, and reports say that they were taking part in some kind of initiation ritual that required them to go to the end of the tunnel, write their names on the wall, and make it back.  A flash flood from a sudden storm changed everything for them, locking them in the cave.  It really started from something small.  

All big sins begin small.  An embezzler who is caught at the height of his crimes for committing fraud of billions of dollars never sets out with that intention from the start.  In most cases of huge fraud, it starts small, where maybe a couple of thousand dollars could somehow be pocketed without anyone’s noticing it, or through some loophole in the system that hitherto uncovered.  Adulteries that have wrecked happy marriages are the same.  It’s safe to say that no one sets out to be an adulterer, but it had innocent beginnings with perhaps a flirty glance or a wandering eye.  “It wouldn’t hurt just to be friendly to my co-worker and give him/her a lift home from work”.  

But there are so many real stories of how something seemingly small and innocent later ended up with a full-blown extra-marital relationship, needing more and more lies to cover up previous lies.  How many millions of people all over the world are addicted to substances or on-line pornography or gambling because of just one puff, one glance, one encounter or one experience.  Not a week that goes by that I do not meet in the confessional a pornography-addicted penitent who has found oneself so deeply mired in the sin that it seems almost impossible to see the sin loosening its vice-like grip on his or her life.

Our salvation from sin by Christ in his incarnation needs to be seen as God’s rescue effort of truly epic proportions.  American theologian bishop Robert Barron is known to have compared Christ’s incarnation as ‘landing behind enemy lines’.   While this image certainly stirs the imagination to appreciate anew God’s rescue efforts of his beloved people ensnared by sin, I realized that the rescue effort of those trapped boys and their teacher works just as well, perhaps because it really did result in one rescue worker who died bringing oxygen tanks to those trapped, underscoring the danger that was imminent in the entire operation.  

In bringing sinful humanity to salvation and eternal life, Jesus’ death was the price that was paid by God himself.  While in the Old Testament Abraham was told to withhold his knife from his only son Isaac, on Calvary, God did not withhold his hand, and instead went all the way and completed the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live.  

When the boys and their teacher emerged unscathed from their ordeal, reports tell of how every one of the boys cried with tears of gratitude for the heroism of that Thai naval diver who died during the rescue operation.  They knew that their being alive had a price and that it had cost him his.  

If we have in our daily busyness of life have become numbed and desensitized of the amazing sacrificial love of Jesus on Calvary for our souls, let us make the effort and spend some time looking anew at the crucifix and be grateful to God with a fresh heart.  We simply cannot afford to let this fact of our salvation grow old on us. 


  1. Thank you, Fr. Luke. Every Monday morning, I come to your blog for inspiration & motivation hoping to change my life. Thank you once again.

  2. Referring to the suffocating grip the vices have over our lives, I always felt that any sin we commit has a inverse effect on building our relationship with God, regardless whether it seems trivial, or a 'casual sin'.

    However, I would like to point out that even a glance at the opposite sex, or a fleeting graphic image, seems to be impossible to be rid of. On our end, sinners would think "hey, it's normal. Only natural, and it's just glances and we will not fall prey to committing adultery"; Science would conveniently classify this under 'mating instincts of the animal kingdom', but I find myself further from the voice of God with every fall.

    It has come to a point, for years, that immediately after committing the act of self-gratification, I
    - getting aroused by past experiences (sometimes without the thought of spouse)
    - feel useless
    - apologise to God
    - rid of all traces
    - make a weak promise not to commit the sin again. Some days are stronger promises, some are useless ones.
    - feel afraid throughout the day/subsequent days that God will punish me for my act.

    It has come to a point where it is used to get over a bad day at work, calming down a raging moment, or even to get off when the spouse does not feel like making love.

    Speaking of making love, I can honestly say that pornography has distorted my opinion of sex.

    It is one of the biggest hurdles in my life that I am trying to overcome, and probably one that many have, on both sexes; but would not dare to shame the devil. I suppose it is one of the many reasons why it is so prevalent in this day and age, and how it can be masked so easily.

    Questions raised
    - How "bad", is this sin?
    - How do I, like many others, get out of the grips of this sin?
    - Have we been sterilized in childhood that committing a sin is wrong, because God will punish you for it (and attributing negative events thereafter to the act), and is it more detrimental to us for thinking as such
    - How do we get over a recurring sin entirely?

    Thank you Father Luke.

  3. Dear Another Sinner

    First of all, thank you for the courage that it took you to write your comment and sharing your struggle with holiness. I am sure that many who visit this page will benefit from it.

    May I assure you that you are not alone in this struggle of yours? As a priest-confessor, every week without fail, I come across so many who are just like you, who seem to be held so firmly in the vice-like grip of sexual sins of the same nature. It isn’t even partial, favouring the unmarried over the married, or one gender over the other.

    When faced with such a predilection or addiction for something that doesn’t in any way help us humans on our journey toward our sanctification, there are a couple of ways that one can choose to handle it. One is to face the challenge head on, and with all the tenacity and will-power that one can sum up, fight the temptation to give it to it when the temptation rears its head. I have heard to so many ways this has been done, and variations abound – pray the rosary, go for a walk, turn off the computer (especially if it is a direct cause of the temptation), look at pictures that distract you (like impoverished and hungry refugee children who really have nothing much in life to be happy about), take a cold shower, etc. The problem with these is that you haven't really handled the temptation in a positive way, especially if in reciting prayers, that is all you really did - recite something, which is where the lips are moving, but the heart is untouched, unchanged.

    To be sure, people have made some strides in keeping away from this sin by doing this, but it is, as one can imagine, quite a struggle. I used to, in my younger days of being a priest-confessor, suggest these ways to battle this sin. But I have been enlightened with the Grace of God.

    In recent years, I was prompted to invite penitents to apply themselves to really love God. There are many Catholics who cannot say for sure that they love God. I suggest that start truly loving God affectively, and make great efforts in doing this, and this will serve to do two things – firstly, it will cause your heart and mind to lean towards God and all that he stands for (this includes delighting in holiness, wanting to be charitable of heart, and building your interest in living a life of virtue), and secondly, it will begin to bring light to our minds that because we love God, we will also begin to not love the things that God doesn’t love.

    Secondly, turning away from sin needs to be seen not just about not doing something bad. It is having a heart that loves correctly, and loves with an orderliness about it. It is also about loving the one who IS love. After all, any addiction is a result of loving, but loving the wrong things and for the wrong reasons.

    It is no coincidence that when John the Baptist ministered and preached, his message was to tell the people to repent. The Greek word is metanoia, which means, among other things, a mind that has a turnaround. Getting out of our addictions is really about turning our loves around. The real key lies in loving God more and more, and we do this by beginning to really admire Jesus so much that we begin to become images of the one we deeply admire.

  4. Good evening Father Luke,

    Thank you for your wise words of encouragement to battle the sins of tomorrow.

    With the Lord speaking through you, I understand how these vices can push us further away from the true way to love. It is comforting to know that I am not the only one battling their inner demons, and encouraging to discover that to defeat this hydra, perhaps one needs to understand WHY it is a sin; how truly loving our God is not self-loving.

    Thank you once again, and may God bless you abundantly.