How to Apply the Words of Paul in the Cuban Context / Mario Lleonart


So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. (2 Timothy 1.8)
Any action which I have done is a result of my faith in God. Faith was the first motivation. (Oswaldo Payá, 1952-2012)

2 Timothy is the second of two letters in the New Testament that the Apostle Paul addressed to his spiritual son Timothy. It is also the last of the thirteen epistles ascribed to this great man of God, which is contained in the Bible and considered the apostle posthumous document and his testament farewell. If you do not possess a Christian worldview then the legacy the missionary gives to young Timothy seems puzzling, especially when it is re-read today, in times when the words satisfaction and success are the highest aspiration promoted by a society of comfort and consumerism, even in areas where these words are found to be pure utopia. Join in sufferings is an invitation made by an inmate death saying goodbye to his beloved son, and although such a proposal goes against total slightest notion of pragmatism, even the most basic self-preservation instinct and conservation that God himself placed in every human being, is this, and only this, what Paul has for the recipient of his letter, when he was about to be murdered by Nero in the Roman circus.

How wonderful it would be to re-read this letter in these times where other purposes, interests and aspirations prevail, even in churches that call themselves churches of Jesus Christ but in practice they are openly led by marketing philosophy, complacency and the long-awaited success measured solely by cold statistics where people stop being seen and treated as human beings to become mere numbers! A true reading of this epistle would break any schemes and paradigms that are driving to the practice of what no longer is the true body of Christ to be just mere institutions of power!

But, how to apply the words of Paul in the controversial Cuban context, in a society which is so far, at least for most of the people, from an atmosphere of comfort and consumerism. Paul’s invitation to join in sufferings is even more relevant in this society since the mere fact that to speak the truth, and nothing but the truth, as it is completely inherent and essential to the gospel’s nonnegotiable ethics, can be paid with imprisonment or with all kinds of outrages and abuses; including, as we have seen in recent months, the repression unleashed by extrajudicial executions, after the General, who serves as the top leader, asked on his closing speech at the last Unique Party Congress to defend His revolution in parks and streets. It is true that this is still not a consumer society… this is even worse because the churches placed in the Western democracies have to survive, overwhelmed by lawlessness government that matches perfectly with the characteristics of the types of antichrists that the Bible describes, where not allowing to be mark by the political power is equivalent to at least not to be able to buy or sell.

It is sad to see how this pragmatic system shows itself to the world, as a government that respect the different religious believes when actually it disrespected them and repressed them for decades. And it is also sad to see the pragmatism between the institutions of power under the name of churches that depend of a legal framework offered by the system to survive in exchange of complicity or doing the work of supplying opium to the people who is required numbed and alienated. Nothing new, it is the same despotic kings with false prophets’ old concubinage, being the latter ones always willing to offer praise to the powerful peoples’ ears and always willing to make concordats to ensure the alms of the political power.

Recent threats of imprisonment has been made to me by Mrs. Caridad Diego Bello, head of the Office of Attention to Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, when she warned the Baptist Convention from Western Cuba, which I gladly am Pastor of, that she will not receive any claims from this institution when my imprisonment is indeed a fact, well that does not intimidate me. I thank both brothers equally as enemies that everyday ask me to take care of myself. Long ago I accepted the challenge of Paul to join in sufferings that remain to add to the sacrifice of Jesus, whether to live according to my Christian conscience is trying to live consistently with the gospel I preach, releasing all that oppresses and overwhelmed.

The sacrifice of the precious life of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and other martyrs who have precede him in this form of targeted killings, this is far away from scare me,on the contrary, it encourages me to continue my ministry that can not exclude this despotic regime.

When I said goodbye to my friend Juan Wilfredo Soto García, killed in May  2011, I did ask in one of the post I wrote then, who would be the next victim, and after his death, we buried Laura Pollan (October, 2011), Wilman Villar Mendoza (January, 2012) and now Payá (Julio, 2012).

I am an heir of a countless multitude of martyrs, including Paul, from the first century, who chose to die rather tan refusing to preach the gospel. In this sense, as a follower of Jesus who gave me the example of not to shun the cross but to carry ours, I own His own words of response to the death threats sent by Herod: Go and tell that bitch that today and tomorrow I will be driving out demons and healing the sick, and in the third day I will have finished. Although, in truth, today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, I shall continue my journey up to Jerusalem. After all, there’s where they kill the prophets. (Luke 13.32-33, TLA).

Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso