Just a quick note because I am literally writing this while flying somewhere over Houston: there will be 7 Sundays this fall when I won't be in the parish due to my travels with the Miami Dolphins. Yes, I celebrate Mass for them but with a much shorter homily. So when the Dolphins are on the road, I'll jot down some reflections as we fly home:
Even though I was thrilled to be with the team for the season opener, my heart last night was in Miami as the Lady of Charity Mass was celebrated on the 400th anniversary of her being found not far from where my father was born and raised in Cuba. Now over my first three road trips, I've gotten into the habit of visiting the nearest Catholic church to pray for the team and the good people who I leave behind. As I was walking out of Annunciation Church in downtown Houston, I gasped as I saw an image of Our Lady of Charity on the back wall of the church. Even though I was far, she still found me. I explained to the team later that night that there were 17,000 people back home paying homage to that image of our Lady. The reason why we gather every year is because as Catholics and as Cubans, we are a people of hope. Mary is the model of hope, and we send up our sighs to her that she may protect us as she protected the three young men who found her image 400 years ago.
Last week, I was talking to my godson and he was nervous about the Dolphins game today. I was assuring him that we'd be ok, and he said to me, "I'm afraid to even hope." I immediately replied, "Never be afraid to hope." Whether in football or in life or in faith, hope is what keeps us close to the Almighty and to the things that really matter in life. Hope is what prompted the friends of the deaf mute in today's gospel to bring him before the Lord. Hope is what makes us open our eyes with each sunrise and embrace each day as a gift from God and seize the opportunity to do his will. It is that hope that keeps bringing so many good people every year before the image of La Caridad to pray for their homeland and their families. We've done it for 51 years because even though our homeland is shrouded by darkness, we have never given up the hope that one day we will return to a free land where we can freely proclaim the Good News of our Lord and embrace those we left behind. Our Lord and Our Lady never abandon us even when we are afraid of what surrounds us and what lies ahead. That is why we must never be afraid to hope.