Saturday, December 3, 2016

advent and fidel castro

Castro’s funeral will be held tomorrow. Since his death on November 25, there have been a number of pieces I’ve read on whether it is appropriate to eulogize him.

“The man did a lot of good,” one side claims. “His death should be mourned.”

“The man was a monster!” the majority feel. “His death should be celebrated.”

I believe the latter to be the case, which is why I also believe we do well to consider a fact which precedes the question of whether he was an angel or a devil: Castro was a human.

That means he was imperfect and sinful—grossly so, one could reasonably argue. But it also means there was something in him that we all share, something sacred.

Advent reminds us of both light and shadow. So, during this season we reflect on the truth that God comes close to the whole range of humanity—from the Virgin Mary to Herod, from the Tyrant General to the Unknown Hero whose rank is Private.

God comes close by becoming one of us. That tells us something about the value of humanity to God—all humanity, every human.

In remembering Castro’s life, we do not need to be untruthful. We don’t need to say he did good to remember there is something good about life itself…by virtue of being life and not death. I do believe that when we fail to mourn death, any death, we begin to lose touch with our own humanity. God became one of us to mourn death with us by encompassing in God’s very self the pain of mortality.

As repugnant as it feels to “eulogize Castro”, it is good to remember at least that every life has value—and death, any death, can be mourned—even if it was the death of a life poorly lived.

Advent reminds us that beyond the value we attach to a life because of its deeds, there is value by virtue of being simply human. In that sense, every life is precious, even if such a life was the cause of immeasurable suffering. At the very least, we can mourn and confess our own solidarity with imperfection, pain and loss. Advent is a good time to remember that God loves all of us so much that he became one of us, closer than close to all of us, from the best of us to the worst.

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