Advertisement

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

What Unites Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis in Greatness?

Advertisement

Photo credit: AFP, Vincenzo Pinto)

Photo credit: AFP, Vincenzo Pinto)

TIME magazine’s pronouncement of Pope Francis as “Person of the Year,” coming as it does after yesterday’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela, has sparked some thoughts on the making of these two great persons.  What unites them? A surprising number of things, maybe, but one quality in particular stands out.

Advertisement

Humility, in a willingness to be treated as any other prisoner on Robbins Island, despite one’s political credentials, is the same disposition that motivates the most powerful figure in contemporary Christianity to eschew the traditional papal mode of transport—a shiny, spanking new Mercedes Benz—in favor of a 1984 Renault 4 economy car with over 186,000 miles to its name. Humility that accepts a sentence of life imprisonment with an almost cheerful resolve, including the capacity to forgive and befriend one’s captors. Humility that foreswears temptations to hold on to power—and instead gives that power away. Humility that goes out into the streets where the poor are, finding there the wealth of God’s kingdom.Nelson Mandela talking to a girl who is HIV positive

Advertisement

Such humility doesn’t just grow on trees: I don’t see it often in today’s public figures or in the recesses of my own heart. But such humility seems in keeping with the pattern of One who, thinking equality with the Father not to be grasped, took on human flesh, humbling Himself on a cross (Philippians 2).

There may be plenty of other similarities between Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis; but this one, humility, seems to live up to its name: it is, I suspect, the single, most important defining mark of human greatness—and the easiest to overlook. But, what do you think? Are there other commonalities that unite these two men in greatness?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Posts

Good Friday Is Like Hot Yoga...
Good Friday is like last night's mindful hot yoga class. It was my first, so I had gone with ...

posted 11:09:17am Apr. 03, 2015 | read full post »

A Glorious Dark: A Review
Three years ago, when ...

posted 2:39:05pm Apr. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Being There: A Eulogy to Our Dog Carter
Today our canine companion of 15 years—about the length of our marriage—died. He passed away ...

posted 10:42:39pm Mar. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Author Marilynne Robinson Live: On Soul Vs. Mind and Why It Matters
My favorite contemporary author Marilynne Robinson was in town this week speaking at an event ...

posted 10:26:54pm Mar. 19, 2015 | read full post »

Dying Stanford Neurosurgeon—On Heidegger, Graham Greene and Time
I'm finally emerging from hibernation on my latest book ...

posted 1:27:02pm Mar. 13, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.