Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.
As a man who has struggled with same-sex attraction and has experienced great healing in this area, one of the key steps in reconnecting with the masculine world is finding great examples of good, masculine men to emulate. I'm talking about truly virile men who used their strength and power in the service of others.
I originally wrote this meditation back in 2011. Although it is written through the events and lens of the world as it was then, I think the message is no less significant today given the very poor examples of men we see in today's world. The atrocities of the men ISIS and Al-Qaeda present extremely flawed and twisted versions of real men who torture, rape, maim and kill. In short, these men use their power to dominate and destroy.
Even in our own country, we see political leaders who are also deeply flawed as men. In this election season we have had to witness the antics of Donald Trump, who although it can be argued is the better candidate, leaves much to be desired as a male role model.
So, perhaps this meditation on two other men is more timely than ever.
This is the story of two men who left legacies…legacies that would change the world.
Both men had the ear of presidents and kings and the eyes of a watching world upon them.
Both of their own personal faiths played a central role in their worldviews and influenced all their decisions.
Many looked to these men as spiritual guides and both believed deeply in their own cause. Indeed an outside observer might say that both men were commanders of their own spiritual armies.
Although these two men never met in person, they both knew of each other and were mutually impacted by the other’s words and actions during their lifetimes.
Beyond all this the similarities end, except that by the marvelous Providence of Almighty God, their destinies met on the Feast of Divine Mercy, May 1, 2011.
It would seem that there could never be two men so markedly different from each other as Saint John Paul II and Osama bin-Laden, yet here they were once more occupying the world stage together one last time. John Paul II was beatified within hours of the assassination of bin-Laden. This was no coincidence.
It seemed that God was offering the world a choice on that climactic Sunday after Easter.
It was the same choice He offered to ancient Israel when He said in Deuteronomy 30:19, “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life…”
It is the same choice He offers us today.
God shows us the way of death and of life in the examples of these two men...
Even more than five years after his death, John Paul the Great still attracted literally millions who flocked to Rome to extol his virtue as he was beatified and to pray in thanksgiving to the Lord whom he served.
He was so beloved that even a simple vial of his blood was carried in procession with all eyes watching in great reverence as it was received and kissed joyfully and reverently by the reigning Pontiff, Benedict XVI.
After the Holy Father pronounced him “Blessed,” his portrait was unveiled to the sound of thunderous applause and tears of joy both in Rome and throughout the world watching via satellite.
Once the ceremony had concluded, the coffin containing the body of the blessed was transferred from a simple crypt tomb to a magnificent chapel in Saint Peter’s Basilica where it will be venerated and treasured by the faithful for years to come. He will continue to work his miracles and his legacy of holiness will continue through eternity.
By contrast, nearly ten years after the devastating attacks on the twin towers, the blood of Osama bin-Laden was unceremoniously splashed all over his compound by an elite team of military specialists as he was shot at the express command of the president of the United States.
Millions wished see his blood, too. They wanted not to venerate it, but to make sure that it was truly spilled and that he was truly gone and could no longer harm anyone.
After the president pronounced him dead, tears were again shed, not tears of joy but of sorrow and loss for this man’s many victims. The only rejoicing was that the world was finally free from this destructive man who left a destructive and empty legacy.
Unlike John Paul II, bin-Laden struck terror in the hearts of billions while he was alive. Yet in death, his body was placed not in a house of worship, but unceremoniously dumped into a watery abyss in an unknown place without even a gravestone.
People will certainly remember him for years to come but he can work no more evil. He will fade into the dolorous pages of history in one of its most macabre and terrifying chapters.
How fitting then that on the night of His betrayal, Christ solemnly promised that those who live by the sword would die by it and those who live in Him would never die.
Yes, by their fruits, we indeed know them, O Lord.
Saint John Paul the Great, pray for us...and for the victims of Al-Qaeda, ISIS all other other terrors groups.
And though we, as Americans, shudder to even think it, we also ask you to implore the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ for the soul of Osama bin-Laden and all the misguided and lost men who followed him and his evil successors.
Fittingly, today is the day the universal Church celebrates the feast day of Pope Saint John Paul the Great! it is hard to believe that he died over almost 12 years ago. I can think of no greater modern man than John Paul II. He was the perfect blend of uncompromisingly strong masculinity tempered by such great love. His example truly made a difference in my life and helped make me the man I am. That is why I chose him as the co-patron of this ministry.
Saint John Paul the Great, man among men, pray for us! Help us to see that true manhood does not dominate others but serves them.