Is God Speaking Through the Pandemic
I keep seeing the disturbing words that the reason why the corona virus is attacking our world is because of the sin of others. The reasoning goes that God is punishing the world for this or that abomination.
Reports of those preaching this seem to be of evangelical pastors in national forums.
Are these words in line with Catholic teaching?
First let us define the difference between Catholicism and virtually every other Christian religion with few exceptions:
Martin Luther created the doctrine Sola Scriptura. This means the definitive text to determine divine revelation is the Bible and the Bible alone. Therefore, the Bible becomes the foundation of every teaching in these Christian communities.
There are many accounts that contradict sola scriptura particularly the last line in the Gospel of John. There are others too. The doctrine is controversial but not Catholic.
Catholics believe in scripture and tradition as the sources of divine revelation. We believe that God, in the Holy Spirit, works through his people in every age. He is dynamic in leading us closer to Him not just static by limiting his work to the specific words in the Bible. We also believe that God speaks to the people of the present age through the people of the past ages. In the words of G.K. Chesterton: “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”
Every Catholic doctrine has to have a root in the Bible, but we also believe that through the history of the Church, we learn more and more about the work of God in our lives. We understand it better through the Bible and we discern its truth by its congruence with scripture.
Catholic tradition never assumed the literal interpretation of every word of the Bible, so we are not averse to scientific understandings of the origins of the world. In fact, Pope Benedict preached at the Easter Vigil in 2011 that Catholics never understood the teachings in Genesis as mechanistic accounts of the creation of the world, but as prophecy. We always worked through the growing human understanding of God in our tradition based in Scripture and finding truth in our faith through the words of the saints to us through the ages.
The Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew scriptures, is from and for the Hebrew people. So, the prospective is related to that religion and group of people and through them the Christians. The Hebrews unlike their surrounding cultures believed in the one God. The greatest sin one could commit against Him was idolatry which is worshiping the gods of other nations. The Old Testament prophets excoriated God’s people who turned on Him to worship idols.
When the Hebrews practiced idolatry, they did not just worship other gods; they also changed their whole political, social and spiritual structure around them. They sought, not union or friendship with God, but economic and political prosperity.
God punished his people to bring them back to Him and lead them away from the culture of paganism and back to holiness. If He did not, they would not flourish but eventually walk down a path to destruction.
Jeremiah, in chapter 19, rails against child sacrifice practiced by some of the Hebrews to the god Moloch for which God’s wrath would fall upon the people.
The prohibition against human sacrifice begins when God calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham responding in obedience shows his love to God as he would to another god by preparing to sacrifice his only son. God teaches him that this was enough to demonstrate his love, human sacrifice was not something He demanded of his people as in other cultures. When the Hebrews returned to paganism often they restored this forbidden practice.
The issue to understand God’s work through the Hebrews is evolution.
The controversial doctrine (among some) is biological evolution. However, there is no question that there are other forms: Political, social, technological, cultural, etc.
God demands what he does of the Hebrews because it is through them that he leads the human race through the mechanics of human existence over time.
If they reject God then they will actually follow the same path as the other cultures and humanity and will devolve in ways that will be self-destructive. This is the importance of the Jews and their staying faithful. It is through their faithfulness that he will lead the world to the fullness of humanity. Abandon God and watch humanity devolve into its greatest barbarism.
NAZI Germany is an example of what humanity can devolve into when it chooses to be totally away from God. NAZIsm was actually paganism embraced by many former Christians including and especially fallen away Catholics.
So, God’s call for faithfulness is more than just out of divine honors, it is also out of his love for humanity as a race. When we abandon God’s wisdom for what the uninspired human promises, we go down the path to division and destruction. In fact, one of the curses in Isaiah is to be ruled by the unwise. (CF Isaiah 29).
Who are the people He calls to faithfulness? His own people: the Hebrews. When we move to the New Testament, we see that St. Paul speaks similar moral condemnations to those in the Old Testament and many people will quote them as being the word of God, but St. Paul is not speaking to all people only the Christians.
Who are the Christians? We have the mandate to be the light to the world and the salt of the Earth. We are those, at least in Catholic teaching, called to lead people to Christ by our relationship with Him that renews us and draws us to holiness. We do not have the vocation of bonking people over the head for their sins, but to turn from sin ourselves and through our lives to lead others to holiness.
Therefore, we are by default held to a higher standard. That is so that we can reflect the love and mercy of God to the world and call others to repentance away from sin and to know God himself in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If the Corona Virus is God’s punishment for sin, it is for the unfaithfulness of his people not the sin of those outside his people.
He did not punish the Babylonians for the sins of the Jews. He chastised the Jews for the sins of the Jews.
In fact, in regard to others, God may be saying that the actions of others are the result of the lack of faithfulness by his own people.
The saints often preached about those considered the greatest of all sinners: the lukewarm. This comes from the Book of Revelation (aka Apocalypse) 3:15 where Jesus admonishes the Church of Laodicea for being neither hot nor cold but lukewarm. These, He declares, makes him vomit them out of His mouth.
How are we lukewarm? Jesus said it all: What is your greatest treasure? (Mt 6:21) Where is your greatest focus? For whom and why do you practice self-sacrifice and what do you sacrifice?
As Catholics, what is your greatest priority? Is it you or a child getting an Ivy League education for which you will sacrifice and even go into great debt so that you or they have a rich life? Or is it that you may experience the fullness of God in your salvation and the salvation of the others as you work for the common good?
What is your greatest treasure? Answer that question and then ask what God is saying to you during this time.
God may be showing us where we are lukewarm, which is something He wants us to eliminate completely from our lives.
St. John Vianney, among others, had more hope for the salvation for the most worldly of people than he did the lukewarm. He realized that the latter were most deceived and, therefore, most in danger of losing their salvation. They believe they are already good enough to get to Heaven.
So, If God is speaking to us through this pandemic, He might not be calling us to condemn others but for us to strive for holiness in prayer so that more may be saved and to avoid lukewarmness like you would, well the plague.