(Source: José María Castillo, Spanish theologian; translation: Novena)
People who have religious beliefs wonder whether or not God is responsible for what we are suffering because of this pandemic we are enduring. Does God have the final say in this matter or not?
To answer this question, the first thing we should keep in mind is that God is the “Transcendent”. That is, God is “beyond” or, in other words, He is “outside of everything” that we can reach or know.
God is not only the “Infinite”. He is, above all, the “Absolutely-Other”. John in his Gospel says it from the prologue of his text: “No one has ever seen God” (Jn 1:18). And Thomas Aquinas affirms it clearly: “God is above all that we can say or understand” (“Supereminentius quam dicatur aut intelligatur”. De Potentia, q. VII, a. V).
This is why we mortals, when we speak of God, cannot refer to “God in Himself”, as in reality, what we speak of and what we think of are the “representations” of God that we make for ourselves.
That is why there are so many “gods”. And so many religions. With the inevitable danger that every culture, every country and even every individual will represent God as it interests or suits them. That is why it is reasonable to think that sometimes we speak of a “falsified God” (Thomas Ruster).
The heart of the problem is that the human mind cannot think otherwise than “objectifying” what it thinks. A thought is a “mental object”. With which – and from which – it follows that the Absolute degenerates into a “thing”; that is, into a “mental object” (Paul Ricoeur).
Hence, convinced that we are thinking of God, in reality what we have in our mind is the “representation” that we make of God. The Gospel of John is right: “No one has ever seen God” (Jn 1:18).
The solution that Christianity has given to this deep and complex issue has been what we Christians call the “Incarnation” of God. Which is the “humanisation” of God, in Jesus, the Lord. It is Jesus who has made God known to us (Jn 1:18). Therefore, in Jesus, we see God.
As Jesus himself said to one of his disciples, “Philip… whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). And so it can also be said that the judgment of the nations (or Last Judgment) will be an “atheistic judgment”: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). The way we behave with others is the way we behave with God.
Well, at this point, we may ask ourselves: how did Jesus behave with the inhabitants of Palestine in the first century?
According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus healed the sick. But he did not heal all the sick. Therefore, can we be sure that Jesus (God) “had the last word” on the great problem of health, which concerns us all so much?
Certainly, it can be said that there is no record anywhere of God having the last word in curing our diseases.
The last word of God, as expressed in Jesus, is that our first concern, in this life, should be our concern for the health of human beings, especially those most in need.
That is what Jesus did. That is what God wants. And that is God’s last word on this pandemic and all pandemics that may come into this world.
Let us not burden God with what is our responsibility. In this matter, so serious and decisive, our bishops should be as precise and transparent as they are when it comes to defending tax privileges and making sure the State gives them the right amount in income tax.