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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Deuteronomy, Chapter 4, Verse 9-10
9 However, be on your guard and be very careful not to forget the things your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart as long as you live, but make them known to your children and to your children’s children, 10 that day you stood before the LORD, your God, at Horeb, when the LORD said to me: Assemble the people for me, that I may let them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me as long as they live in the land and may so teach their children.

Moses use of the word fear here not in the sense of “be terrified,” but rather “manifest reverence or awe.” Christ’s mission of love was to move our hearts from reverence or awe of pure love: A love in which the heart of the beloved longs to do good works secretly in emulation of the God that is good to saint and sinner alike. Our church traditionally during the first week of September instructs us to increase in ourselves Faith, Hope and Charity in preparation for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on the 14th of this month.

Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost…to labor and not to ask for reward, except to know that I am doing your will. (Saint Ignatius, Prayer for Generosity)

Lord, let me not fear death with an empty fear, but with a wise and holy fear. An empty fear does not make men any better, but a wise and holy fear urges them to improve their lives. I will prepare for death by trying today to please you more and more in my thoughts, desires, words and actions. If I live this day as You desire, I shall be ready at any moment, and death will be nothing worse than Your loving call. Amen[1]

Continuing our study of John McCain’s book “Character is Destiny”[2] John portraits the life of “Nelson Mandela” as a model for the power of Forgiveness. One can only forgive if they have the capacity to love. Our study is based on developing our character by starting with a foundation of love to which we develop a core of strength by being hopeful, confident, Industrious and so forth. After we have advanced these traits sufficiently we need to apply our firm purpose and work on having an understanding heart. Everything is based on love and love is the key to understanding the trait of forgiveness.

John says of Nelson Mandela:

He was a prisoner who forgave his jailer, and helped his countrymen forgive one another. Nelson Mandela believes “no one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  Africa has been saved from the ravages of racial hatred is due, in large part, to Mandela’s noble character, among whose virtues has been the ability to forgive the wrongs done to him and his people during the oppression from apartheid. Mandela believes truly that love is the natural condition of the heart, and that hatred is as much a burden to the hater as it is to the hated. Mandela tried peaceful means to end apartheid but to no avail and eventually turned to violence when no other means for saving his country was within his power. He was eventually captured and jailed for 27 years. At his trial he conducted his own defense; he argued that an all-white judicial system could not possibly try black opponents of the system fairly. His riveting closing statement from the dock has become one of the most celebrated speeches in modern political oratory: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

As apartheid began to crumble, Mandela was escorted to meetings with the South African president that would eventually lead to Mandela’s release and then to a genuine multiracial South African democracy. Mandela was finally released in 1990 and was inaugurated the first truly democratically elected South African president.

[1] Paone, Anthony J., S.J. My Daily Bread, Confraternity of the Precious Blood.
[2] McCain, John and Salter, Mark. (2005) Character is destiny. Random House, New York