Is this an Occasion of Divine Punishment?

Cardinal Bassetti

It’s certainly a fair question; plagues as a means of God’s judgement are well attested in scripture. When asked, however, many of our leaders in the Church have categorically denied that the pandemic is a punishment. How do they know? Apparently, it’s because God no longer punishes. Some examples:

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Bishops Conference (who was later infected with the virus):

If we thought of this situation as a punishment from God, we would betray the very essence of the gospel.

German Archbishop Ludwig Schick:

To call coronavirus as god’s punishment is cynical and incompatible with Jesus’ message.

Cardinal Ravasi:

I believe that this situation will lead to a change in convictions. Let us also hope that the fundamentalists will leave their theory that the pandemic is due to punishment from God or revenge.

Cardinal Angelo Scola:

Divine punishment does not exist.

Cardinal dos Santos Marto

The most remarkable comment came from the bishop of Fatima, Cardinal Antonio dos Santos Marto. Though the apparition of Mary in Fatima was primarily a warning of divine punishment, when asked about the pandemic he responded,

This is not Christian. Only those who do not have in their minds or hearts the true image of the God of Love and Mercy revealed in Christ, through ignorance, sectarian fanaticism or madness. 

Church historian Roberto de Mattei has commented on these denials, and regards them as proof of divine punishment:

In reality, thinking that God does not send scourges makes someone not a pagan but an atheist. The fact that this is exactly what many bishops throughout the world think means that the Catholic episcopate throughout the world is immersed in atheism. And this is a sign of a divine chastisement that is already under way.

Scripture reminds that God has providence over all things; it doesn’t provide a quick answer but can at least help us to understand the question:

Good and evil, life and death, poverty and riches—all are from the LORD (Sirach 11:4).

…I am God, there is none like me. At the beginning I declare the outcome; from of old, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every desire (Isaiah 46:5;9-10).

Perhaps we should use the word “discipline” rather than “punishment”. As Christians, when we endure hardships we can remain hopeful:

Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7).

Msgr. Charles Pope believed that the Church was experiencing a chastisement months before the outbreak of the pandemic, writing in Sept. 2019,

One thing is clear to me: we are under a period of pruning and punishment for our sins. Ten years ago, I had no idea the rot was so deep. It is so much worse than I ever thought then, and I am convinced we are going to see a lot more exposed in the next few years.

God has a greater purpose in having allowed the virus from Wuhan, China to spread internationally, perhaps to impel the beginning of a spiritual revival. Msgr. Pope poignantly concluded,

…Here in this chapel, in the Eucharistic Presence of the Groom, I await the renewal He will surely bring. I am aware that more purification may be needed first, and so I wait, I sigh, and I accept my share in the purifications.


Why Did Jesus Choose the Title ‘Son of Man’?

“Son of Man” was a common expression in the Old Testament for “man” or “mankind”, rendered either ben-enosh [“son of man”] or ben-adam [“son of Adam”]. It was the phrase with which God addressed the prophet Ezekiel over 90 times:

Continue reading “Why Did Jesus Choose the Title ‘Son of Man’?”

Light in a World of Darkness

Jesus taught His followers that they should be prepared to experience one of two things: oppression or empathy. He explains this to the Pharisee Nicodemus, who came to Jesus under the cover of night to question Him. The reference here to the light is a reference to Jesus Himself:

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The Dialectical Thorn in St. Paul’s Side

The Apostle Paul, Rembrandt

A dialectic is a philosophical method in which a thesis, when conjoined with an antithesis, produces a synthesis; two contradictory concepts can instruct each other and together form a new concept. There appears to be two of these in the fascinating story of St. Paul’s thorn in his side, a God-given ailment meant to humble the apostle.

St. Paul shares with the Corinthian church the story of having been “caught up to the third heaven” fourteen years earlier, where he “heard ineffable things which no one may utter” (2 Cor. 12:1-4). He admits that he deserves to feel proud of this privilege, but was given a painful thorn as a result in order to prevent him from the sin of pride.

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5 Scriptural Guides for Attaining Wisdom

Wisdom comes in handy when you have kids or grandkids who pepper you with tough questions about life. In more serious situations, wise judgements would have dramatic consequences in a families life. King Solomon had asked God for wisdom above everything else:

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Meditating on God’s Providence in Unsettling Times

Through His prophets, God would often remind Israel that He not only has foreknowledge of all things but determines them:

To whom would you liken me as an equal, compare me, as though we were alike? ...I am God, there is none like me. At the beginning I declare the outcome; from of old, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every desire (Is. 46:5;9-10).

Continue reading “Meditating on God’s Providence in Unsettling Times”

Praying the ‘Our Father’ to Resist Pride

Human pride is something God detests:

Every proud heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured that none will go unpunished (Proverbs 16:5).

But pride is sought after in our society and respected. It forms the basis of advertising, the pursuit of money, advanced degrees, physical perfection, etc. Since humans are so inclined toward it, scripture abounds in warnings to resist it. Jesus warned,

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St. Louis de Montfort on Reciting the ‘Our Father’

In writing his classic The Secret of the Rosary (ca. 1700), Montfort wanted to elevate the experience of praying this medieval devotion as well as underscore its spiritual power:

It is not so much the length of a prayer as the fervor with which it is said which pleases God and touches his heart. A single Hail Mary said properly is worth more than a hundred and fifty said badly.

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Embracing the Peace of Christ

St. Junípero Serra

In a period of a few months a global pandemic has erupted causing an economic depression that may not end anytime soon. Add to this widespread social unrest with its goal the eradication of the symbols and memories of the achievements of Western civilization and what seems like a perfect storm has formed.

While it’s hard to see a peaceful outcome to all of this, especially for the Church, we can rest in the promise of a special peace: Continue reading “Embracing the Peace of Christ”

The Significance of the ‘Stone Jars’ at the Wedding in Cana

Mary comes to Jesus and reports that the wine for the wedding feast had run out. He answers,

“Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”

In Greek “woman” (guné) has a broader range of meaning than the English equivalent. It’s more often the word for “wife” in the New Testament, as it is in Hebrew and Aramaic. Jesus prefers it for a personal reason since there is no precedent in the Bible for calling your mother “wife”.

Jesus made numerous references to His “hour” and they all refer to His future Passion: His suffering, death, and resurrection. Since it would have been years away, the reference to it at the beginning of His ministry is curious. Continue reading “The Significance of the ‘Stone Jars’ at the Wedding in Cana”