Monday, December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela, The Sound of Music and Harmony.

Nelson-Mandela-330x230




Freedom fighter, prisoner, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.

That was Nelson Mandela, who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead his country out of decades of apartheid.

He died Thursday night at age 95.

His message of reconciliation, not vengeance, inspired the world after he negotiated a peaceful end to segregation and urged forgiveness for the white government that imprisoned him.

"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison," Mandela said after he was freed in 1990.

Mandela, a former president, battled health issues in recent years, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.

Despite rare public appearances, he held a special place in the consciousness of the nation and the world. (CNN)

His philosophy of learning to love instead of hate made him one of the moral leaders of his era. This was a man that went from being a prisoner to being the president, from being a radical to being a man of peace, from a self and a country that was divided to one of harmony.

"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities."

During his lifetime Mandela inspired us with his numerous words of wisdom, etched in our memories till tomorrow. And his words remain. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death. 

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Difficulties break some men but make others.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

When people are determined they can overcome anything.

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion" he wrote in his autobiography.

"People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for loves comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

Finally, regarding the conversion he experienced in prison:

"Let me say first", Mandela said, "It is a great tragedy to spend the best years of your life in prison. But if I had not been to prison, I would not have been able to achieve the most difficult task in life, and that is changing yourself. I had that opportunity because in prison you have what we don't have in our life outside prison: the opportunity to sit down and think."

The most difficult task in life is "Changing yourself". This self change brought about a sense of "Harmony" not only in Nelson Mandela, but a harmony that would flow over the entire country of South Africa.

The truth is we can all experience this inner harmony, not by changing others or the world around us, but by beginning with ourselves.

Do we allow ourselves the silence to "sit down and think?"

This is some of the wonder of Advent.  It is a time of waiting, and silence, and solitude... have you taken the time to make this a prayerful Advent?  If you have not there is a great opportunity for 24 hours of silence on a Poustinia retreat that I am leading.  You are welcome to join us.  Click here to enter the Desert.

Are you experiencing inner harmony?  Is there harmony in your families?  Is there harmony in your marriage?  Is there harmony at your work?  Is there harmony with your children?

If there is not harmony, the temptation is to try to change others.  We try to change our boss, our spouse, our friends, our kids, our parents...  but "the most difficult task in our lives is changing ourselves."  When we do this we discover harmony. 
John the Baptist was preparing people for this inner transformation.  
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.


To repent is to feel so bad about something that we have done or failed to do that we are willing to change ourselves.  Ultimately this "most difficult task of changing ourselves."  Is changing our will into the will of God. When our will is aligned with God's will there will be harmony.

This brings me to the sound of music.  "The hills are alive with the sound of music..." 

I go to the hills
When my heart is lonely
I know I will hear
What I've heard before
My heart will be blessed,
With the sound of music
And I'll sing once more.


It was amazing to see this special event on Prime Time TV.  The sound of the church bells, stained glass, nuns in habit, singing vespers... all is well with the world!

I noticed a line that I've never noticed before.  Mother superior is explaining to Maria (Carrie Underwood) that she has to leave the convent and that she is just not ready for this way of life yet.  Maria's whole life's dream has been to enter the convent and she's about to experience this huge let down.  Mother Superior asks her this question:  "Tell me Maria, What is the most important lesson you have learned here?"

Maria thinks to herself and responds with great resolve:  "To find out what is the will of God and do it wholeheartedly."

(Watch it here at 15:50)



The most important lesson we can all learn in life is to find out what the will of God is and do it with our whole heart, mind, soul.  When we find out the will of God and do it, we will experience this Harmony.  

Have you experienced this Harmony?  Have you found the will of God for your life?  Are you living it wholeheartedly?  

Maria is instructed by Mother Superior to go to the Von Trapp family to help bring harmony to a family.  She discovers that this family has forgotten how to sing.  What do we do if we have forgotten to sing?  Where do we begin if we have forgotten our call?  

"Let's start at the very beginning a very good place to start.  When you read you begin with A, B, C.  When you sing you begin with Do, Re, Mi..." 



So how do we find this harmony in our lives?

We must start at the very beginning.  Go back to the basics.

St. Paul to the Romans:
Brothers and sisters:
Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.
May the God of endurance and encouragement
grant you to think in harmony with one another,
in keeping with Christ Jesus,
that with one accord you may with one voice
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Harmony can be found through our endurance and by the "encouragement of Scriptures."

How do we do this?

The most profound way that we are encouraged by Scriptures is at the Sunday Eucharist.  When we come to mass every sunday we are encouraged as we hear the word of God and receive His very essence in the Eucharist.  It is also extended as we spend time daily meditating on the word.

We experience the greatest harmony in the Eucharist.  Are you going to mass every Sunday and receiving this encouragement?

Are you enduring in the life of faith and your life of prayer?

These are the very beginning and essential steps for us to find harmony.  Sometimes we need to go back to the basics and start at the very beginning.

If we truly want to find Harmony we need to spend the time as Nelson Mandela did by spending the time to "sit down and think..." to remember that "the most difficult task in life is changing ourselves."  Changing our wills to the will of God.

And what is the most important lesson Maria learned in the convent?  "To find out what is the will of God and do it wholeheartedly."

When we do this we will discover not only harmony in our deepest self, but bring our entire world into this harmony.

May you discover the gift of Harmony by "changing yourself" and discovering God's will in your life and doing it wholeheartedly.  

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