People like to joke that when something bad happens, it is because God is angry at us. There are, for example, people who say that God is visiting the Coronavirus on us as a punishment for the debauchery or evil deeds of our society.
That sort of approach may have been found in the Old Testament, but it is not so prevalent in the New Testament where the Lord is pictured as a loving Father. A good example would be the parable of the Prodigal Son, where ‘prodigal’ refers to the wayward behavior of the son.
The father in the story shows love and concern to BOTH his wayward but repentant son, AND to his “straight and narrow” unrepentant older son.
In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (the poor man), the rich man ends up in hell not because God was angry at him, but because he isolated himself and failed to recognize the dignity of the poor man at his feet.
In this paradigm, hell is isolation due to selfishness, self-will, self-centeredness and choices which reinforce this attitude; heaven is connection with others due to generosity, humility, other-centeredness and choices which reflect this attitude toward others.
This view has the advantage that God is not moody or fickle or changing in His solicitude towards us, but constant and consistent in His love: He makes the rain fall on the good and the wicked alike. As the saying goes, if you feel more distant from God today than in the past, who moved?
Faith should not be used to blame God for the Coronavirus or accidents or death or any other evil. The sin of Adam and Eve brought those things into play, especially death.
Rather, faith serves to allow us to hope when we are behind the eight ball, when life does not go well, when we are discouraged or grieving or facing a particularly difficult challenge or even death.
Faith in God reassures us that there is a silver lining, even if it comes after death, in all that happens to us. Faith allows and precedes hope, and hope allows us to love when we don’t know for sure the outcome.
We as a church, as a city, as a state, as a country, as a world, could use a nice dose of faith in God — faith to unite us in a cause greater than our petty and dysfunctional, polarizing arguments.
If we really want to transcend our bickering and minimize the scourge of the Coronavirus or accomplish greatness, we need to transcend our differences and work together.
Embracing faith in an all knowing, all powerful, all loving God would be a great way to start. One could even ask, in our current situation, “Can we afford not to?”
– Fr. Albert Bruecken, OSB