Is Covid-19 God’s chastisement?

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

A tiny virus, invisible to the naked eye has brought the world to its knees. Lives are suddenly disrupted, economies collapsing, and tomorrow is a day to fear. The world knows how this tiny virus spread but not why. And so far, only a few have raised the possibility that God is chastising us because transgressions God’s laws have become “normal”.

There had been a lot of homilies and talks by religious leaders about God’s unbounded love and mercy but few and far in between do we hear about the need for repentance, expiation and the punishment that follows without them. It is as if the homilists were careful or afraid people will stay away.

And so, we see the world wallowing in grave sins against God – sacrilege, abortion, corruption, hedonism, blasphemy, homosexuality, abuse of nature, satanism, idolatry – name as many acts that the Bible says are abominable before God.

Allow me to quote recent writings that reference to the Bible on chastisement of the Lord.

The word “chasten” is used to describe acts of discipline, correction, and corporeal punishment.  According to Holy Scripture, the Lord’s chastening is generally be considered painful and unpleasant (Heb. 12:11), intended as a “rebuke or reprimand” to change one’s behavior. In the Old Testament, the chastisement of Israel, included defeat by their enemy armies for sin and rebellion against God. (Deu. 11:2). But the purpose of chastising is not to destroy (Psa. 118:18), but to lead to repentance (Jer. 31:18-19) and to restore God’s blessing (Psa. 94:12).

Seen from biblical perspectives, chastisement is not a bad thing. Although unpleasant, it is not to be confused with the wrath or judgment of God as was done with Sodom and Gomorrah or the Deluge. Chastening refers more to correction and discipline of a loving Heavenly Father toward His children, a spiritual “spanking” whenever our sin and rebellion makes it necessary. The Bible says, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb 12:5-6).

As a priest at the church of Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet preached in Paris last Saturday on the occasion of a sung Votive Mass for the Deliverance from Death in Time of Pestilence, it is in times of epidemic that we must turn towards God, convertere ad Dominum Deum nostrum, as we sing at Tenebrae in Holy Week. This phrase means, “return to the Lord our God” which the prophet Jeremias called on the Israelis to repent for their transgressions and which had caused their sufferings. I wonder though how many people listened much less know what the Tenebrae is when it is sung during Holy Week. We call this tinieblas when all lights inside the church is shut off.


This priest also said “it is no time to empty holy water fonts or close churches. On the contrary, all public calamities are an opportunity to do penance and renew our spirit of faith.”


Sometimes the chastisement may occur only as an inner “rebuke” or conviction that God is displeased with our sin. But scripture and Church history also tell us that when necessary, God will lift his hand of blessing and allow difficulty and trouble to come our way, not to destroy us, but to bring us back to our knees in repentance.


Is the coronavirus pandemic a chastisement or merely a health problem?

It seems that most do not see this pandemic as a call for personal and collective repentance and expiation and so the approach even of our church leaders is secular. The bishops have issued an Oratio imperata or mandated prayer against the corona virus, but the prayer is an appeal to God for healing and help for health workers and the government. It does not call for penance, for forgiveness, for mercy. Has the Church initiated activities to impress the need for penance?

We can see the situation from several perspectives. Others may not see the Lord’s chastisement but merely a pandemic that needs human solution. But I see it now, from the magnitude of the disease that it may be a call for penance, that God’s wrath is upon us. Are the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima and of Akita being fulfilled?

Continued tomorrow.