I don’t know Raul Castro personally. My travel itinerary in the coming months doesn’t appear to be bringing me close to his company either. If given the chance, however, I’d love to tool around Havana in the backseat of one of those ’57 Chevy taxis, which are to Cuba what bicycles are to Beijing – ubiquitous.
Maybe I’d spot the Cuban president from the backseat, though I doubt it. Even if I were to get an audience and be able to sit down with the guy in the presidential palace – a compound that needs as much Sherwin Williams product as every other building in Cuba – I don’t know if he’d become a fast friend. But to sip a pineapple daiquiri with this brother of Fidel, and have a meaningful conversation? That intrigues me!
The reason is simple. Raul seems to be open right now to a change of heart. He also appears to have a knack for noticing what is commendable in another human being and wanting it for himself. I don’t know if that’s a new knack, or just news made from his recent knock on the Pope’s front door. You can decide that for yourself.
If you missed coverage of Raul Castro’s recent visit to the Vatican, he came out with gushing praise for Pope Francis.
“I read all the speeches of the pope, his commentaries,” said Raul to reporters. “If the pope continues this way, I will go back to praying and go back to church. I’m not joking.” To be a papal enthusiast, of whom there are many, is one thing. To be the leader of the Cuban Communist Party that has a history of cracking down on believers, and to reconsider going back to church, is quite another.
“When the pope goes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses, and with satisfaction.” Those are words of a man who is stirred.
Sometimes when in the presence of someone with exceptional qualities, deep character, and a record of impact, we are stimulated. We pay close attention. Our minds buzz with ideas. Our hearts accelerate several beats. Something in us wants to imitate this person.
Learning from the example of another happens to be a fine way to grow the depth chart of one’s own virtues. In fact, it may be the best way. For just when we think faith is mostly a matter of appropriating beliefs, memorizing particular verses, and assenting to certain doctrines, we probably ought to take another look. What if faith is more about trusting someone worth trusting? What if faith is best learned from someone who demonstrates every day how life gets lived under the guidance of God?
The humble traits of Pope Francis did not go unnoticed to Raul Castro, who spoke of being “very impressed by [the pope’s] wisdom, his modesty, and all his virtues that we know he has.”
Learning from the best sides of another is what I would like to call EXAMPLING. We do this imitation of each other’s behavior all the time, especially when we like each other. The beautiful corollary is also true: the more we like each other, the more we imitate.
Now to creating lives that are worthy enough to inspire exampling in another! I’m hoping Raul took that desire home with him, just as I hope it’s written all over my heart today too.
Peter W. Marty, senior pastor