Lazaro is one of our brothers in La Iglesia Bautista del Camino. He speaks little English but communicates "grande" in the language of humanity. He talks with his hands, feet, and heart. He has an amazing knowledge of American baseball, movies, and history - truly amazing considering the peoples of our countries have been cut of from each other by political ideology for over 50 years. He has an ingenious way of using his hands to communicate. To help me know how much he liked something or someone, he would put his fingers to his lips, extend his hand outward, and then place his hand over his heart. A meaningful moment for me with him came during our New Years Eve meal with his church family. We were talking about baseball and he was sharing about his love of the game. I took off my old Brooklyn Dodgers cap and gave it to him. He cried, and his tears of joy brought joy to my heart.
San Lazaro is the patron saint of the poor in Cuba. His icon is of a withered man in ragged clothes hobbling along on a pair of crutches with sores on his legs. There are two dogs at his feet licking his wounds. He is not the Lazarus who is a brother to Mary and Martha and a friend of Jesus who is raised from the dead in the New Testament story but is the Lazarus who is a beggar who is ignored by a rich man and ends up in the arms of Father Abraham when he dies. Two Cuban friends told me that for the poor he is a sign both of hope and of resistance. He is a sign of hope because his story offers the possibility that there is liberation from poverty - food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, home for the stranger, clothes for the naked, care for the sick, and visits for the prisoner. This sign of hope leads the poor to go on long pilgrimages during the feast of St. Lazaro to seek consolation and help from him. He is also a sign of resistance because his story offers the possibility that there is liberation from oppression - good news to the poor, healing for the broken-hearted, release to captives, and freedom to prisoners. This sign of resistance came from the indigenous people who were overwhelmed by the power of the Spanish state and Catholic Church but who made a saint of the Church their own saint and who came to realize that Jesus was one of them.
The Cuban Revolution came down from the mountains to the people. The San Lazaro Revolution is rising up from the people to the mountains. The Cuban Revolution taught people how to read and write. The San Lazaro Revolution is teaching people how to read the Cuban Revolution.