Billy Graham and John Paul II are indisputably great men. However much of what they accomplished should be attributed to their own actions and however much is due to other factors, these two must be considered significant actors in 20th-century history.
The forceful, athletic and charismatic man who became pope in October 1978 is now an old man, unable to walk and debilitated by Parkinson’s and other diseases. At his installation, the pope heard these words proclaimed three times: Sic transit gloria mundi—thus passes away the glory of the world.
I wonder and worry that people perceive Christ’s rule to be similar to the queen of England’s rule. Do we view Christ as one surrounded with the art and beauty of a tradition that is more antique than active? Do we see this figure of salvation as hopelessly outdated and practically mute in these postmodern times?
Billy Graham and I hit New York City at the same time, the summer of 1957. He was 38 and about to clinch his reputation as the premier evangelist in Protestant history. I was 12 and about to taste freedom. But not yet. Night after night my parents packed themselves and me into a steamy subway to go down to Madison Square Garden to hear the Great Man preach.
The realization that one has enemies, personal or professional, can make one adopt a guarded and self-limiting stance toward life. Yet in Psalm 25, where someone is wrestling with this kind of situation, we see the psalmist reaching out to the one he can trust as not treacherous, to whom he can relate, secure in the knowledge that in God he has a source of steadfast love.