Death and The Coronavirus From the Perspective of Faith: Part I

myroforai-1975615_1280

By Antonio J Galindo Aleman

The time we are living in now looks like a story taken from a fiction book. The world is upside down and everything seems to collapse. In the following essay, I would like to compare the present situation with the book written by the existentialist, Albert Camus called The Plague’ and how the Catholic Church is called to be a witness of the Resurrection of Christ at this time.

The Plague’

In this novel, Albert Camus presents the fictional story of a city called Oran. Dead rats begin to appear in the streets but people do not make a great deal of it because it is not affecting them directly. When the disease begins to kill human beings, then people begin to worry. In a reaction to this fear, the authorities begin to lock down the city setting the whole town under quarantine. 

The fear of contracting the disease is so great, families are separated from their loved ones. Because of the isolation forced by the authorities, people die alone, funerals are restricted without religious ceremonies. People begin to freak out because of the isolation and the sense of exile. People’s selfishness begins to appear; they just care about their own private happiness and well being. Somehow, the other becomes an enemy, a focus of infection that threatens my life.

There is no cure for the disease. It is impossible to avoid death. It seems that their suffering is not understandable to others. Their suffering seems to be the biggest one of all the earth and they have to face it by themselves. There is an absurdity in this way of living because their hearts are dying to be loving and being loved, of living. “They came to know the incorrigible sorrow of all prisoners and exiles, which is to live in company with a memory that serves no purpose” (Albert Camus, ‘The Plague’).

The main point Albert Camus wants to make in this book is that life does not make sense. It is an absurdity. Man comes to existence one day to disappear another day. There is no transcendental answer. Man is threatened by this ‘plague’ and it can come to knock at his door at any moment. Man is not really free because of the existence of death, “no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.” (Ibid) 

Parallels to COVID-19

The whole world has been shut down, daily life has been interrupted and all our securities are collapsing. Only ‘essential’ things for life are allowed. We are losing our jobs, studies, Churches are being closed, and most of all we are being separated from our loved ones. We cannot even accompany our loved ones in their suffering and they are dying alone. Furthermore, we cannot even give them a dignified burial. We are isolated, confronted by the fear of death. It seems that there is no answer to this terrifying situation and people are alienating themselves in the digital world by watching movies, pornography, playing video games, or in drinking alcohol, taking drugs and many also fall into despair and kill themselves because they are afraid to suffer. We do not want to face the reality of death.

This present time looks like the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah 16:

Of deadly disease they shall die. Unlamented and unburied they will lie like dung on the ground. Sword and famine will make an end of them, and their corpses will become food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth. They shall die, the great and the lowly, in this land, unburied and unlamented. No one will gash themselves or shave their heads for them. They will not break bread with the bereaved to offer consolation for the dead; they will not give them the cup of consolation to drink over the death of father or mother.

Surrounded by Death

The promise made by Science and Technology of fulfilling the desire for happiness in this life by the advance of sciences is falling apart. Science and technology do not find a cure for the disease; they do not really know how this virus works or how long it is going to last. The only answer is ‘we do not know.’ We are discovering that we are surrounded by death. However, this is not something new; this reality has existed since the beginning of our lives.

The problem is that we try to avoid the central question of life because we are afraid of not finding an answer. What are we living for? Why death and suffering? Thus, we have come to live in a hedonistic and digitalized society where the only answer to life is the instant gratification of our passions. Before kids would be exposed to death by letting them being present at the bed death of their loved ones and going to their funerals because death was part of life, but now kids are being protected from the reality of death. We are constantly avoiding these questions and that is why we do not live our life to the full.

Think about it for a moment. If there was the coronavirus but there was not death, would there be a problem? No! Again, if there was an economic crisis but there was no death, would there be a problem? No! Then, what is the real problem that humanity is facing today and has faced since the fall of Adam and Eve? Death! As Paschal said in his book Pensées: “Being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things.” 

Nevertheless, the reality is everyone is under this tribunal; it does not matter if you are rich or poor, tall or short, ugly or handsome, healthy, or sick, in the end, we are all under the judgment of death. 

Religious Interpretation

 It is very usual that the first religious interpretation given in front of situations of suffering, which we do not understand, is to think that God is punishing the world because of their sins or because we have forgotten him as if he needs us. This interpretation does not come from faith; God has redeemed us and forgiven us already in the person of Christ. Besides that, we know that God is eternal, perfect, and does not need anybody in order to fulfill himself. He does not have a need for us. We know and trust that God is good and can bring good out of evil. What’s more, in this situation we already see the good that it is getting: there are fewer abortions, less euthanasia and the environment is improving.

Another risk is to think that God is not listening to our prayers to stop this pandemic, but this is an infantile idea of God, to try to use God for our own benefits. The Christian is the one that does the will of God, not the one that uses God to do his will. Then, why would God allow a situation like this to happen? Maybe as a Father that loves his children; He is correcting us to bring us back to himself, not because He needs us, but because He loves us and knows we need him. We cannot be happy without God. The main lie that humanity has received from the beginning of history is that we do not need God, that we are God. We can make ourselves happy; we can solve all of our problems through science and technology. This is very clear in the last two centuries where man has taken the place of God deciding what is good and evil, deciding the nature of man. Man has become the controller of life. If you want to change your gender, you may change it because you are God and you decide whatever you want. If you want to abort, you abort and kill human life that is in you because it is your body. If you want to end with your life just kill yourself.

The good thing about this pandemic is showing us that this is not true. Man is not God. Man does not have an answer to death! Science and technology do not answer this fundamental problem of human life. We want to live, we do not want to die, but we find the absurdity of life in front of death, as Albert Camus points out in this book. This situation is magnifying our reality of death that we experience every day even though we try to avoid it.

Now, we are being in a way forced to think about these questions. We are confronted by the fear of death and we find ourselves powerless. If we continue living like this, we are all going to become crazy. The reality is that, even when this calamity goes away, we will always be confronted with the problem of death. We are afraid of ceasing to exist. We want to live! I emphasized this to say that the main problem that we are facing today is not the Coronavirus; the real problem that we face every day is suffering and death.

Come Back to Reality

Maybe God is allowing this situation to help us to come back to our reality, to help us to question life and ourselves and find an answer in him. Maybe God is allowing this situation to show us how fragile and small we are, to show us that we are not God! I like how Fr. Benedict Groeschel describes our smallness in his book ‘Arise from Darkness’:

Do you realize that you and I are members of an extremely small minority of human beings- the people who are alive just now? Think of the immense number who have died. If you could get back from eternity all the people who once lived in New York City, we could hardly move because of all of them. Think of all those who have ever lived in Europe and Asia. The vast majority of all human beings are dead. You and I are part of this funny little minority that runs around thinking we are terribly important.

We all think the same way; we think that we are indispensable for the others. We think that if we die the world would lose one of its seven wonders. This situation is showing us that we are not, that we are nothing that we are weak and this is frustrating for us. Maybe God is allowing this situation to make us reflect in our lives; to make us see what it is that really matters in life.

Part II

Antonio Galindo is originally from Spain. He is 25 years old and came to live in the EEUU in 2014 together with his family as a missionary family of the Catholic Church. He has been studying for the priesthood for five years.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

7 thoughts on “Death and The Coronavirus From the Perspective of Faith: Part I”

  1. Conflating staying at home with selfishness is an odd concept. I thought it had to do with not mistakenly infecting others, including people in your own house after you come home. At the moment staying at home is a Christian vocation.

    1. I was conflating it with the book “the Plague” where Albert Camus is using this image of the confinement to describe the reality of man which is that we are selfish because of the fear of death and which causes us to see the other as enemies who are threatening our lives, an image of having the virus which represents death and the possibility of being contaminated by another person, the image of the other taking us out of our selfishness. As St. Paul says, “He indeed died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Somehow, Camus uses the allegory of the pandemic and the confinement to show that we humans are afraid of this plague which represents death and to we are slaves to be under confinement because of the fear of death, as an image to express the selfish reality of every human being because of original sin. Finally, I connected it to the Gospel which answers to this fear of death by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who opens the doors of heaven to give us Divine Life so that we might no longer have to live for ourselves because of the fear of death, but that we may have eternal life within us so that we can love without selfishness and without limits as God does.

      I am not saying at all that in our present situation we are being selfish by staying at home. My point was to emphasize the reality of death that is present in our lives and this present situation of coronavirus is magnifying.

    2. I was conflating it with the book “the Plague” where Albert Camus is using this image of the confinement to describe the reality of man which is that we are selfish because of the fear of death and which causes us to see the other as enemies who are threatening our lives, an image of having the virus which represents death and the possibility of being contaminated by another person, the image of the other taking us out of our selfishness destroys us. This is the message he is proposing in the book, that we are afraid of death and this makes us live for ourselves.

      Somehow, Camus uses the allegory of the pandemic and the confinement to show the reality of man that we are afraid of this plague which represents death and that we are slaves to be under confinement because of the fear of death, as an image to express the selfish reality of every human being because of original sin. Finally, I connected it to the Gospel which answers to this fear of death by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who opens the doors of heaven to give us Divine Life so that we might no longer have to live for ourselves because of the fear of death, but that we may have eternal life within us so that we can love without selfishness and without limits as God does. As St. Paul says, “He indeed died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

      I am not saying at all that in our present situation we are being selfish by staying at home, this conflate was done with the “the Plague” which is a fictional book. My point was to emphasize the reality of death that is present in our lives and this present situation of coronavirus is magnifying. The real problem we face is the fear of death and the fact that people find themselves without an answer to death. This problem is not only present in this situation of the COVID19, but it is always present in our daily lives where we experience that we are not able to love without limits. Our love is conditional love. We only love as long as the other person is as I want him to be, but when we feel that the other person is taking life from us we cannot pass this wall. Thus, the Good News is that Christ has destroyed death to give us eternal life so that we may love as God loves.

      Thank you!

  2. This is false: “It is very usual that the first religious interpretation given in front of situations of suffering, which we do not understand, is to think that God is punishing the world because of their sins or because we have forgotten him as if he needs us. This interpretation does not come from faith; it is not true because God has punished all the sins of humanity in his only Son Jesus Christ. God has redeemed us and forgiven us already in the person of Christ”.

    The very first reality is that God punishes for sin – from Genesis to Revelation. You have thrown out Matthew 25 as well, where God punishes for sin at the time of His Universal Judgement. Also that in the midst of Easter God punished Ananias and Saphira for their sins; Herod and prophecied and then punished the sins of His People with the destruction of Jerusalem with ‘one stone not left upon another’…;

    Hebrews 12:5-7
    and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
    “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
    For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
    And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
    It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

    Revelation 3:19
    Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent

    A simple google and biblical Concordance search of punish or punishment gives witness to the lie that the Lord does not perfectly in His Blessed and Sinless Justice punish us for our sins AFTER the Paschal Lamb’s Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection – even Our Lady at Fatima, whose Feastday is today, witnessed that ‘the Father would send the punishment of another war if mankind did not turn from its sins and repen”t… this is apostasy, heresy, sacrilegious and blasphemous to say otherwise….please ask Our Lady of Fatima for the humility to repent and know the darkness of the lies…

    hopefully this helps as well, from the CCC:

    The punishments of sin and its nature and consequence the Lord has determined and established:

    1473 The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old man” and to put on the “new man.”85

    1475 In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.”87 In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.

    1478 An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity.90

    1479 Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.

    1863 Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. “Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.”134

    1. Antonio Galindo

      The point I was trying to make is that God does not punish in the way we understand punishment. I did not want the readers to understand punishment as something evil, because this is how many times is understood. As a matter of fact, I presented the ‘maybes’ of why God is allowing this situation by emphasizing that God is our Father and because of this He corrects us.

      ” Maybe as a Father that loves his children; He is correcting us to bring us back to himself, not because He needs us, but because He loves us and knows we need him. We cannot be happy without God. The main lie that humanity has received from the beginning of history is that we do not need God, that we are God. ”

      Personally, I was trying to avoid the word punishment because many people may interpret it as something bad because of the experiences of our lives. I like more the word to correct because God corrects us to help us to come back to him, not just to punish us. Even Saint Paul, as you well mentioned, uses the word discipline.

      “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”( Hebrews 12:5-7)

      I totally agree with the teaching of the Church about punishment, but if you want to use the word punishment it must be understood as a medicinal punishment, and not as God being angry at us and therefore sending us sufferings to makes us suffer because of our sins. This is an understanding of punishment which is based on fear and faith tells us that we are children of God. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (1 Pet 4:18)

      When I said, ” God has punished all the sins of humanity in his only Son Jesus Christ. God has redeemed us and forgiven us already in the person of Christ,” I said that with the intention to show what faith tells us that we are children of God and that God is merciful and that “He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve. ” (Psalm 103: 10) All our sins have being punished and forgiven in
      christ to show us that we cannot save ourselves even under punishment, but that God saves us in his Son Jesus Christ forgiving all our sins.

      Thus, I did not use the word to punish to help the reader not to mistake the meaning of the word seeing God as an angry God who is waiting for us to make mistakes to punish us. God corrects us and disciplines us for our good.

      To finish I leave you here a comment of St. Thomas Aquinas on punishment that may help you to understand better punishment. Thank you for your comment!

      “Nevertheless we must observe that sometimes a thing seems penal, and yet is not so simply. Because punishment is a species of evil, as stated in the I:48:5. Now evil is privation of good. And since man’s good is manifold, viz. good of the soul, good of the body, and external goods, it happens sometimes that man suffers the loss of a lesser good, that he may profit in a greater good, as when he suffers loss of money for the sake of bodily health, or loss of both of these, for the sake of his soul’s health and the glory of God. In such cases the loss is an evil to man, not simply but relatively; wherefore it does not answer to the name of punishment simply, but of medicinal punishment, because a medical man prescribes bitter potions to his patients, that he may restore them to health. And since such like are not punishments properly speaking, they are not referred to sin as their cause, except in a restricted sense: because the very fact that human nature needs a treatment of penal medicines, is due to the corruption of nature which is itself the punishment of original sin. For there was no need, in the state of innocence, for penal exercises in order to make progress in virtue; so that whatever is penal in the exercise of virtue, is reduced to original sin as its cause.” (Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second part, Question 87.7)

    1. I just read it recently – a reminder from grade school – we are here to know, love, and serve the Lord. Never hurts to be reminded.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign Up for the Catholic Stand Newsletter!

%d bloggers like this: