In "The Joy of the Gospel" Pope Francis in paragraph #9 says: "Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good." The Holy Father was speaking of the joy of evangelizing others, of sharing the Good News. This can only be done with joy when we are set free of our self centeredness, of the destructive hurts and pains that harden our hearts, when we can see beyond ourselves to the needs of others.
We are aware of the extraordinary courage and witness of so many good men and women throughout history that have done so in the spread of the Gospel, in the living out of lives of faith and goodness, who have impacted the world. Some go way back, like Nicholas, a bishop and figure whom the Church honors today and whose spirit the world still emulates at Christmas with kindness and gift giving and sharing in the name and spirit of Christ at his birthday. Some are personal favorites like Francis of Assisi who, misunderstood and disappointed in life, found hope in casting all aside and embracing in poverty the needs of all in the name and spirit of Christ. Some we know in our own day, like Mother Theresa of Calcutta, a little woman whose simple yet deep love of Christ allowed her to pour herself out for others and who became a witness for the world. Others saw injustice and responded in ways that changed societies - in our country through the efforts and witness of Martin Luther King and in South Africa in the work of Nelson Mandela. President Mandela died last evening, and the tributes from throughout the world are coming forth. This man experienced a long imprisonment, experienced a "profound liberation", did not become bitter or hardened, but was deeply resolved to work to meet the needs and sensitivity of others, and helped to transform a nation from an accepted yet unjust form of prejudice to a country that includes all.
He, and those that have impacted the world communities and the Churches in their witness, while yet sinners and imperfect, have been known to have lived "a dignified and fulfilling life". May the Lord give peace and eternal rest to Nelson Mandela.