“Who Sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?” …Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ …” he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him”
The Gospel passage of today speaks volumes about the threat that we are facing since the onset of Corona Virus (Covid-19).
In the beginning so much ink and paper, so much ideas and debates have been rolling, so much energy spent in trying to answer the question, “Where did it come from?” Who is responsible? Chinese or Americans”. Meanwhile the virus was spreading in Wuhan, and later moved to Europe, then America and sooner or later some cases started being reported in Africa. The myth that Black people are immuned against Corona Virus has been debunked, after some Black people tested positive for it.
When a snake enters your house, you do not ask “who left the door open?”. On the contrary, you first look for it, kill it, or if you love animals, trap it and hand it over to the game warders. Then you may launch an investigation to find the one who left the door open. I believe this is the wisdom that the Chinese government applied in containing the virus, and now they have managed to stop new infections. It is sad that some countries are still grappling with the question, “who left the door open?”, meanwhile the “snake” is quietly hiding in crevices where it will never be found or may take ages to be found.
The question “who sinned?” for the man to be born blind is a moral question no less than the question “where did coronavirus come from?”.
Such a question presupposes punishment as a consequence of evil. If the man did not sin and neither his parents, then there is no reason why he should have been born blind. It is also a question that emanates from causality. A belief that for everything that happens, somebody must be responsible. From the traditional point of view, we can say this thinking is common in cultures drenched in witchcraft and fatalism; when things don’t go well, there is either somebody casting a spell, using Muti, or something might have happened in the past.
In the wake of coronavirus, there has been a number of theories, some purely conspiracy, while others using events in the scriptures to explain what the world is going through. Some people have argued that God is punishing humanity for the evil that we have become, and they have corroborated this argument by quoting 2 Chronicles 7 :13-15. Whether this is true or not, that is the question.
In his article “The Revenge of Nature”, Fr Cullen comments on the different diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Ebola, HIV, Avian Flu, and argues, “You might say these diseases are revenge of nature. The natural world is striking back at the disastrous human exploitation of the rain forests, the oceans, and all the wildlife by driving them to extinction. There is destruction in almost every habitat in the developing world and in some parts of the developed world too. Illegal trade and trafficking in many endangered animal species for huge profits could be the cause of the coronavirus”. He goes on to argue “We can expect more health problems in the future. Just like the mighty storms and heat waves caused by man-made climate change, Nature will rebel and is coming back to hit us”. Then he proposes, “To stop the greed and trafficking of wildlife and the cross-over of animal borne viruses to humans, the authorities worldwide have to go after the traffickers and traders of wildlife. They must identify their bank accounts and confiscate their property, assets and money and jail the big-time traders. It is essential to ban all sale and trading in wildlife”
The argument of Fr Cullen makes sense in so many ways; if we look at what has been happening globally for the last decade, it is indeed true that Mother Nature is not happy with us. Note that in the famous movie The Lord of the Ring, we see that after seeing how much destruction the wicked king was causing to the environment by cutting down humongous trees in order to build his kingdom, all the trees and shrubs gather together with the other plants, join forces with Frodo Baggins to fight the wicked king. In the end the wicked king and his kingdom is destroyed. I believe it is defeatist to say that God is punishing us for our sins. It would be better to say we are paying the price for our unbridled adventures, greed, corruption, and insatiable appetite for power and domination. Yet there is still hope to turn the wheel the other way round by making right choices informed by the spirit of stewardship. This is possible because, “after all man is that being who invented the gas chambers of the Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who has entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips”.
Yet the question “who sinned” may not be an easy one to crack. Jesus puts it lucidly “Neither the man nor his parents sinned. He was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him”. So, does God have to create blind people in order to show his greatness by curing them? Why does he just create them with a perfect vision?
To ask such a question is nothing less than asking “Where is God when evil happens in the world? Why does God allow evil to happen? Why does God allow coronavirus to destroy lives and economies? Why do doctors and priests serving God also die from the Corona Virus…?” We can never exhaust questions of this type; questions that can take eternity to answer. Yet we can only but ask!
Job, a righteous man of God, was no stranger to these types of questions. In his attempt to justify himself against his friends who associates his suffering with sin, Job lost his direction and ends up in lamentation to God. God takes the initiative to ask him a litany of questions that humbles him. In Job 40:3-5, then Job answered the Lord and said: behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more.”
In his final answer to God Job says “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know (Rem Psalms 131). I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore, I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42: 1-6).
When his wife asks him “are you still holding on to your innocence? Curse God and die”. Job in faith answers her, “are even you going to speak as senseless women do? We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?” (Job 2:10).
In all his lose and pain Job responds “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back again. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”
The CCC 385 teaches that “God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. St Augustine exhausted himself by searching for the source of evil and found no solution. His painful quest was only resolved when he converted to the living God. Paraphrasing St Luke, the CCC explains, “we must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror”. The CCC 309-314 develops further this theme on God’s providence and the scandal of evil
In the wake of Coronavirus, the evil that has beset us, we can either continue asking questions and lamenting like Job and his contemporaries, or use our faith to find meaning in what we are going through. God has not abandoned us;
- He is there in neighbours who though quarantined exchange smiles and speak to each other through the windows, balconies and walls
- He is present in the young people who help the elderly by buying groceries for them, posting mails, and ensuring that they have enough sanitizers
- He is present in the rich who avoid stock-piling and panic buying and so enable other people who live from hand to mouth to also have some food to buy when they go to the stores
- He is present in the doctors, nurses, priests, sisters, volunteers, social workers, counsellors, etc who risk their lives, and even some have dies as they fight for the lives of the patients
- He is present in the police officers and army who are guarding our cities and homes against criminals who use this pandemic as an opportunity to rob
- He is present in the many orphanages and shelters where the poor are still being taken care of
- He is present in the many people who are spreading smiles and messages of love, courage and hope to those who have despaired
- He is present In those who are burying the dead
- God is ever present in the beautiful sunrise and sunset, the rain, the trees, the mountains and hills, the waterfalls, the flowers that are blooming, the animals both wild and tame, the birds in the air and fishes in the seas…
- God is there, God has been there, and God will be there…
I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have called you by name, you are mine.
Courage! Do not be afraid. I will be with you to the end of time.
 Cullay S 2020. The Revenge of Nature? Worldwide: The Church In Southern Africa-Open To The World. Vol 30 No 3 (April-May 2020) p12-13.
 Frankl V E 1962. Man’s Search For Meaning: An Introduction To Logotherapy. London: Hodder & Stoughton