accolades of praise and admiration. The gaze of multiple millions – from child to the aged – has been elevated in his honour.
This is well-deserved, of course, in view of his tremendous role at great personal cost in
bringing to an end the apartheid system of oppressive government by the white minority in South Africa, and its replacement with a more equitable democracy. He was the first foreign leader to be made an honorary citizen of Canada, and the first foreigner to be named an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada. He was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December, 1993.
For me, an enduring visual image of him is of a tall, elderly statesmanlike figure who, while physically frail, presented himself serene and poised, his demeanor exhibiting an inner strength. He spoke with authority and conviction. Despite his great age and the rigours of his 27 years in prison, involving hard labour that resulted in lung damage, his countenance was youthful and displayed his radiant signature smile. He appeared rested and at peace within his person; his manner gracious.
As I compared photographs of his younger, pre-prison years, it seemed to me that Mandela appeared more serious then, and I fancied that he didn’t smile as much. Something had changed. Perhaps the greatest change was in himself – in his soul. The radical freedom-fighter was still engaged in the battle, but he was different now. Was it a spiritual change? Perhaps. Had he found a freedom that sets men free in spirit despite his long geographical confinement and circumstantial constriction? Possibly.
However, when all is said and done, he achieved – along with others who stood with him – great things and demonstrated a greatness that accords with Scriptural principles, especially during the latter decades of his life. These reflect to a marked degree the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the blessedness our Lord spoke of in the beatitudes. For example:
From Matthew 5:3, 5-9 (NIV201. Inserted applications for these musings are mine.)
Blessed are the poor in spirit [humble], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek [gentle, patient], for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [justice; seeking and doing what’s right and just], for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart [honest, true; pure in motive], for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
You might like to consider whether other verses from the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount could also be considered as in some way evidenced in Mr. Mandela’s life.
Are there ways that Nelson Mandela has been instrumental in elevating your focus – your gaze – which I haven’t touched on here?
Or, perhaps you disagree with me. And that’s fine, too.
>> His legacy will live on, and is even now being played out in myriad small ways. If you care to, you might take a couple of minutes to see the following excerpts from CBC.ca/news/politics/ (accessed Monday, Dec. 9, 2013) : >>
“Even after his death, Nelson Mandela has done what no one else seemingly could — bring Canada’s past-and-present political leadership together, in one space, for a single cause — if only for a few hours.
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper and three of his predecessors — Jean Chrétien, Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell — sat in close quarters as they winged their way to South Africa late Sunday in the elaborate front cabin of a government Airbus. . . .
“And it is respect for the man that Canada’s leaders share that is important this week as South Africa shows the world both its pride in Mandela and its pain in losing him, said former Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean [who also was aboard the aircraft] . . . .
Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was also among those who joined the Canadian pilgrimage to pay homage to Mandela, along with the premiers of the Yukon, Nova Scotia and Alberta, and Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo.”
Former PM Joe Clarke will join the Canadian delegation in Johannesburg.