Lately Cuba has been undergoing change. And, by lately, I mean over the last decade or so. But, this makes life difficult for any Cuban who left Cuba in the time immediately after the revolution (and over the next two decades). You see, there is a battle between the emotional memories of what happened to many of us and the reality of the change that is taking place in Cuba. For those who were hurt by the revolution, it is hard to believe that anything that is said by those who hurt us could be true. It is easier to demonize them so as not to have to deal with the reality that it is possible for human beings to change. Because, if they change, then we might have to forgive them.
That same dynamic is true among victims of crime. Even if a person has truly changed, it is emotionally difficult for the victim of a crime to learn to see the criminal as a fellow human being who can repent and who can change. And, yes, I am very aware that there are prisoners who would be quite willing to lie in order to be paroled. Having said that, there is ample evidence of those who do change. After all, the author of Amazing Grace, John Newton, was a slaver captain. Saint Moses the Black was a thief, and possibly a murderer.
In order to keep ourselves from admitting the possibility of change, we use several techniques. If the person changes immediately, we question the genuineness of their change. If the change is slow, and a bit at a time, we condemn them for not changing fast enough. We say that if they had really changed, the change would be complete and immediate. Yet, I know of no Christian whose change from sinner to saint was immediate and complete. Uhm, actually, I do not know any Christian who is actually a perfect saint! What this means is that any person can easily be accused of being a hypocrite. And, you know what? That is true, provided that the definition one uses of hypocrite is anyone who falls even one iota short of fulfilling every commitment they have made. Frankly, this is unfair to every human being on Earth.
It is better to define a hypocrite as one who states a belief without any evidence that they are trying to fulfill that belief. If there is evidence that they are trying to meet that belief, then failure does not necessarily make one a hypocrite. Frankly, if the failure to meet a belief is the only mark of a hypocrite – even if one is trying –, then I have to admit that I must be a hypocrite as a father, a hypocrite as a husband, a hypocrite as – well, you get the idea. Actually, I have apologized to our daughters for some of my failures as a father when they were growing up. I have apologized to my sister for my failures as an older brother. They have been most loving and graceful, and simply hugged me and told me that it was OK. Well, my sister may have teased me some.
Which brings us back to Cuba. Raul Castro is now saying that because of the attitudes of Pope Francis he is willing to consider his childhood faith again. My challenge, and the challenge of any Cuban, is to withhold the immediate rush to judgment and to have the hope that perhaps God is at work. You see, if I do not have hope for Raul Castro and for Cuba, then how can I have any hope of becoming the man I wish to be? Yes, I know that I turn 64 this year. But, I am still hopeful that I can become a better man than I have been. I would rather get a lot of that done now instead of waiting for the Resurrection.
So, I look at Cuba and I offer up a hope and a prayer. May the changes that appear to have begun be real changes. May the time of suffering be slowly coming to and end. May God grant mercy to the island on which I was born.