Sunday, 8 December 2013

Nelson Mandela - Catholics, Be Merciful (Updated)

Two people comfort one another outside Mandela residence
Photo: Mail Online

I know that Nelson Mandela signed into law one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world. This fills me with deep sadness. Millions of innocent babies have been killed in South Africa because of this law.

On the other hand Nelson Mandela ensured that South Africa was able to transform from a society with highly oppressive apartheid laws into a democratic society that recognises that all people are equal. Very few people believed that this transformation was possible and yet, thanks to Nelson Mandela, who God clearly used as an instrument of peace and reconciliation, South Africa did achieve this transformation.

Each one of us is called to the achievement of personal holiness. None of us are perfect, no matter how hard we may try. This is why we Catholics believe in going to Confession on a regular basis, e.g.: weekly. Through the Sacrament of Confession God not only forgives our sins, He gives us the grace to overcome our failings and to progress towards the achievement of personal holiness.

The achievement of personal holiness is a journey, not something achieved in an instant. Most of us will die still striving desperately to achieve personal holiness, fully aware of how we continuously fail in this journey. Thankfully God is a loving and merciful God who understands us. All that God requires is that we keep trying, to the very best of our ability, to love Him and our neighbour as He loves us. The rest we leave to Him, trusting in His infinite love and mercy.

It is in this light that I look at Nelson Mandela. The photo above, published by the Mail Online, best depicts what I believe that Nelson Mandela achieved in his lifetime. Nelson Mandela helped to bring healing to South Africa. Yes, he may have had many shortfalls, as do we all. Yet, when all is said and done, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God used Nelson Mandela as an instrument to perform a miracle in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela should be respected and his incredible positive contribution to our country acknowledged. Instead of judging him for his perceived failings, such as the abortion law he signed into legislation, we should look to forgive and thank God for the many good things that God accomplished through him.

Another thought, which was not included in this post initially:

[One of the significant characteristics of Nelson Mandela was his ability to forgive those who put him in jail for 27 years. He could easily have come out of jail an angry bitter man and used his power as president of South Africa to exact revenge on those who had taken a major portion of his life and hurt and killed his fellow africans. But he did not. He forgave. He showed a level of mercy and forgiveness that I doubt I or many others could ever show to others. How can we respond to that with a judgement of the things he got wrong? In fact, how dare we? What about all that Nelson Mandela got right?]

Therefore, unlike some Catholics, I join with Pope Francis in this message that the pope sent by telegram to President Jacob Zuma on the death of Nelson Mandela:

Vatican City, 6 December 2013 (VIS) – The Holy Father sent a telegram of condolence to Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, on the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela yesterday.

In the text, the Pope extended his condolences to the Mandela family, members of government, and all South Africans. Pope Francis recalled “the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation's citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation, and truth.”

“I pray,” the message continues, “that the late president's example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations. With these sentiments,” the telegram concludes, “I invoke upon all the people of South Africa the divine gifts of peace and prosperity.”

It may also be opportune to remember the Our Father, which we pray, or should pray, at least twice a day during Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer).

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

God bless Nelson Mandela.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon him. 
And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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