Sir Paul Holmes and God’s mercy

Paul Holmes, who recently became Sir Paul Holmes, is arguably the best known media personality in New Zealand’s television history. He’s someone who has always had an edge about him that has meant he possibly hasn’t been the most loved New Zealand media personality, but he’s always been my favourite interviewer, which for many years bookended my day, from his breakfast radio program to the 7pm news and current affairs show that bore his name.

Sir Paul is now dying, and as much as he has offered the country over the years, many people are looking at his current attitude and outlook on life as being possibly his enduring legacy. He has been interviewed a few times in the past few weeks in the aftermath of his knighthood, but this interview on the Sunday program is, I think, the most wide-ranging interview he has given.

My Facebook news feed, stacked as it is with pro-life and/or Catholic people, has been abuzz with positive comments about what Sir Paul had to say about facing his impending death as he battles cancer — a fight he had previously won, but now appears set to lose. One comment in particular stood out with people in my Facebook friends list:

“I will give my life now to some contemplation. I will walk round here and I will contemplate, and pray for God’s mercy”

My good friend Brendan Malone at The Leading Edge blog, who is far more knowlegeable than I am in most areas, put it in some context:

Hearing him say this reminded me of the final days of Saint Augustine, who had King David’s penitential psalms hung on his walls so he could mediate on them and spend his final days on earth in prayer and repentance.

It really is true that God uses the weak and humble things of this world to shame the wise – last night I watched as he used a frail and dying media celebrity, with a past full of all sorts of serious mistakes and sin, to remind this country that every one of us will one day be stripped of our self-importance, ego and pride; that we will all eventually die, and, most importantly of all, we are all sinners in desperate need of the mercy and love of God.

In a NZ that is becoming increasingly captured by aggressive secularism the importance of having these profound truths broadcast on prime time television, for all to hear, simply cannot be calculated.

As Brendan says, Sir Paul has made many mistakes in his life, which he acknowledges, but he seems to have some perspective that he’s either never had before or never been willing to reveal because of the risk of tarnishing his public image.

I wonder if someone as famous as Paul Holmes, if they spoke about ideas like God and mercy when they were in good health, would be treated the same as Sir Paul has been under these unfortunate circumstances. And if they were treated differently, what does that say about New Zealand — or probably the West in general?


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