Monday, September 4, 2017
Rogelio Zelada - Office of Lay Ministry
In his Letter, St. Peter wanted to warn us about something fundamental: What do we expect from God? He earnestly asks us to give convincing reasons about our hope to everyone who asks us. Such a big question remains current: What is our hope? Ultimately, the firm hope of every believer is nothing more than trusting the word of the one in whom we believe.
As we walk through history, only the virtue of waiting in faith allows us each morning to keep clarity of vision, a well-disposed attitude, serenity in our hearts and steadiness in our steps. It is not about human hope – which is good company, albeit insufficient – but about that hope which has God as a source, is not exhausted, and remains alive beyond all obvious impossibility. It is the strength that firmly held Abraham’s faith, who hoping against all hope, believed and became the “father of many nations.” Elizabeth calls her cousin Mary “blessed” because she has believed and is certain that everything the Lord has said will be fulfilled.
The Gospel suggests Mary as the great model of the believer, one who lives hope profoundly. Without understanding, she accepts what God has proposed to her, not because she clearly knows how far the Lord will lead her, but because she completely trusts in his word, because she knows whom she trusts. Often, the evangelist repeats as a sacramental antiphon, “Mary kept all these things in her heart.” It is an image that should illuminate the hope of everyone who assumes the risk of faith, the call to ruminate one’s own story in one’s heart, to reflect on one’s experiences to glimpse those lights that give meaning to the obstacles and difficulties of the journey.
St. John XXIII warned us of the false messengers bearing bad news, those who blind themselves at all times to hope and who, as doomsayers of misery, predict a dark world, separated from God and closed to the joy of faith. The Holy Bishop of Rome said that we have always been, are and will be in the hands of Divine Providence. That is the reality that we must keep in our hearts, understanding that the Lord God, patient and merciful, has not forgotten to write straight on the crooked lines of human history.
Mary is a gift made as a sign for our peoples. She lifted her spirits and lit up the hope of the subjugated native, of the enslaved black, of the oppressed criollo, and became a banner, an invocation, company, strength in an unequal battle, in victory and song of praise.
For the Cuban people, Holy Mary of Charity, in her seafarer and mambisa image, has been, is and will be the great companion of the poor, steadfast consolation and gentle maternal embrace in the most difficult moments of life. From the dawn of Cuba’s history and its development as a people, the Virgin of Charity sowed with hope the helplessness of the bohíos; the sadness of the abandoned; the pain of the sick; the yearning for freedom of a nation in the making; the disenchantments, betrayals and false promises; the exiles, the uprooting and the endless times of tyranny that have been the bread of her people over and over again.
Her small image opens the wings of her mantle to shelter us all and call us each day to trust in the promise of God, and to take our present into our hearts, from a glance of faith based on Christ, his Son. We are all together inside the boat that welcomes the three Juanes, alone in the immensity of stormy waters where she is the Star of the Sea, the only one that will lead us all, her children, at the precise moment, to the safe harbor where Christ awaits us.
Is it not that which we sing: “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope”?
The popular image of the Virgin of the Charity places two native Cuban indigenous and a black slave child in the canoe of Nipe. As we watch them, we realize they perform two actions at once: they row and pray, they work and pray, all with their eyes on the Virgin who accompanies them from above.
Hope drives us to ask that the moment we are expecting come quickly. It also leads us to work to bring forth the time of justice, mercy, forgiveness, enthusiasm for the things of the Kingdom of God and for the arrival of a new earth where everything is for everyone and for the good of all. The Virgin of Charity calls us once again to live the strength that comes from trusting in God alone, which is called hope, a theological virtue that anchored in faith always leads us to charity. St. Paul told us that at the end of time, when everything is over, we will not need faith, and hope will have already been fulfilled.
Years ago, I received these verses from Dr. Mercedes García Tudurí, which are a beautiful personal reflection on that final reality.
“When I leave everything, even though
I do not need it,
let hope come with me.
It was, you know, the most beautiful thing you gave me:
I did not lack it on the gloomy eve
and it held me until the dawn of your infinite day.
She gave me the strength to live the endless time of exile.
It is so subtle and weightless that it will not burden my wings.
Its ineffable presence will remind me of the absence I felt of your grace
and will make me happier in your eternity.
Although I may not need it, allow hope to come with me!”