As the world watches helplessly the havoc caused by Covid-19, two articles impressed me, 1) “Perplexing questions from mysterious Covid-19”, by Dr Nandkumar Kamat (“NT” June 14) and 2) “God on Trial”, by Fr. Nelson Lobo (“Renewal”, April 1).
“A tiny virus, just a nano particle, is holding eight billion intelligent humans to ransom.” Coronaviruses are RNA viruses, their evolution is very complex and nobody knows from where the first coronavirus originated. There are seven infectious coronaviruses and among these Covid-19 is the newest and the most infectious”. The perplexing question is how it became so infectious when there is nothing in its architecture to suggest that it could be different from other six coronaviruses. For months people speculated that communist China is not telling the truth and Covid-19 could be a smartly genetically engineered and reprogrammed synthetic virus.
Although the speculation that China developed it as a “bioweapon” has been strongly refuted by medical scientists there is still insufficient information about its precise origin. “The most perplexing question which is not being answered is what restrictions the WHO will impose on “secret bioweapon research”.
Fr Nelson in his article discusses, “In the court of suffering people, the questions raised are: Why is God silent? If God is omnipotent why is he not stopping the spread of virus? Does He really feel human pain? Should we pray to such a God?”
He then talks about Original Sin, Disobedience to God, about Satan and reiterates that God gave us the ability to reason and choose. God wants people that would love and serve Him because they choose to, not because they are forced to. If we want God to act in tragedies, He is willing, but He is counting on His body the Church that needs to act and not just let us go about our lives as if we are unmoved.
Many will be surprised that the present pandemic was predicted (“Father Michael Scanlan’s 1976 Prophecy and the Events of 2020” vide National Catholic Register”). Father Scanlan of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, had delivered a prophecy in 1976 about a time of “lawlessness and shuttered churches”. No one imagined such a scenario occurring soon — or ever. “We didn’t dismiss it, but we kind of put it to the side,” Ralph Martin president of Renewal Ministries says: – Now, 44 years later, the message has struck home, as the seemingly extreme events are happening. “There’s some real guidance in it and some real hope in the prophecy. Obviously, the Lord knew this was going to happen 44 years ago and He wanted to prepare us.” Although the prophecy speaks forebodingly of lawlessness and Churches with bars across the doors, it castigates humanity for not willing to depend on God alone: “Are you willing to see no law, no order and no protection for you except that which I myself will give you? Are you willing to see no country to call your own except that I give you as my body? Are you ready to base your life only on me and not on any particular structure?” Those who, like Father Scanlan (he died in 2017) are believed to have the gift of prophecy are messengers that prepare us to build up the Church.
There are important lessons to be learnt. Father Scanlan’s prophecy predicts how during coronavirus shutdown parishes would lead to online Masses. It draws our attention to the four ways Christ is present: in the Eucharist, in the person of the priest, in the word of God and in our souls. When the first two aren’t available, Martin said, Catholics can develop an understanding of and appreciation for the other two. “These are important things we can learn during this time, yet a lot of us refuse to learn. We’re so dependent on the structures like church buildings that it is hard seeing these structures taken away.”
Everywhere, people are troubled, anxious and confused about what’s happening: the polarization, hatred, irrationality, hostility to Christ. We are in a horrible spiritual battle manifesting itself in very visible ways.”
Martin believes the best response to what is happening is to seek the Lord while He may still be found. We need to get very serious about our faith. Catholics can’t be anonymous numbers going to church on Sunday, but must connect with others in their neighbourhoods and work environments.
Martin even talks about starting “house churches”. We need to make sure that if the schools and parish close, it’s not the end of the world because God is in control and has a plan and a purpose for us. In spite of the sober tone of the message, Martin believes that these times will lead to tremendous love and hope.
The last sentence of the prophecy states, “When you see it all shut down, when you see everything removed which has been taken for granted and when you are prepared to live without these things, then you will know what I am making ready”. Yes, God has a plan for good.
If there isn’t a sufficient turning to God, He’s not going to leave us in our lukewarmness, infidelity and sin. God often uses painful and difficult circumstances to get our attention, Martin recalls a quotation from C.S. Lewis: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts in our pains. Pandemics are his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
(Dr. Francisco Colaço is a seniormost consulting physician, pioneer of Echocardiography in Goa, column writer, singer/songwriter/music aficionado, Mando exponent, past president of the state IMA, social activist, popular orator and toastmaster, family man, with deep faith in God.)