Fr.Bedros Shetilian – OCP Articles – 18/4/2020
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.”
On Coronavirus Pandemic
When this crisis started, I thought of these Jesus’ words. What a tragedy. Hundreds of thousands are dying, millions are suffering and there is a global fear of uncertainty. This crisis is the biggest one since the Second World War.
But why? I completely disagree with people who say that this is God’s punishment. I think this is foolish and primitive. The evidence says that this pandemic was caused by human beings, whatever it is, whether because of a wrong diet or in a laboratory. I also disagree with people who say that this is the End. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”, Matt 24: 14. Is the Gospel preached to all nations? I don’t think so. According to the Russian theologian, Alexei Osipov the Gospel is not preached yet in China and India and this is half of humanity. Jesus’ words are clear; He says “preached”; which means a comprehensive and organized effort like we see in some countries in Africa. China and India still to be evangelized.
We, Christians have to think about this crisis from a Christian perspective. We can’t do it another way. And I think, this is a reminder to us that we people, contrary to what many think, have yet many things to learn, that we are not all-powerful and we have no control over many things, that we are limited. This is a lesson to remind us of our arrogance, which is becoming more and more visible because of the progress that we achieved. We can make self-driving cars and fly sophisticated drones, but we cannot predict and overlook a life-threatening issue. This also should be a reminder that we have to shift our priorities, from being focused on technology, sports and economy to things that are more essential like; morality, goodness, and conscience, or to be more correct; to put whatever we do and achieve under the umbrella of above- mentioned values. We hear little of these values. What we mostly see are scandals, accusations towards each other and a power struggle on a scale never seen before. It is disgusting to see that some countries are taking aid signed to other countries by paying more money. Certainly, there is something wrong.
In such times of crisis, people show their both sides. Good ones will materialize their goodness and evil ones their selfishness. We see the sacrifices of healthcare workers, putting their lives in danger. Amazingly we hear of some elderly people who give up their ventilators to younger people and die. This is what I am talking about. You name it whatever you want, I will name it Jesus’ spirit, the spirit of self- sacrifice for the others, proof of LOVE through action. We are in desperate need of such a spirit. Our younger generations are growing with no education in ethics and morality; they don’t know what is good and what is evil. Religion cannot be thought in the schools since there is a separation of the church and the state, but shouldn’t there be ethical education in the schools and other educational institutions? Education based on the ethics and morals of different religions and humanitarians which basically have many similarities.
We have to face this crisis with dignity. We know ourselves better in such times when we are tested. Some people may end up being weakened and others may end up being stronger. This is a great task, and that is to keep our integrity. It is not easy, but possible. We may suffer, we may cry, our faith may be tested, but in the end, it is very important to see as a result of this that we are better human beings and better Christians. In such times when there are wars, genocide, famines, pandemics people ask the same question that Jesus asked on the cross when He screamed: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why His Father, the almighty God didn’t help His Son on the cross? Jesus went exactly through the same kind of suffering that people go through during great calamities. This is a legitimate question. But in the end, Jesus died in peace saying: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. We know what happened then to Jesus, we just celebrated His Resurrection. There is no rational explanation to understand such mysteries; we can have peace only when we start looking to such realities through our souls and through our hearts.
As I am following what is going on, I think there will be an increase in faith, because suffering leads people to seek answers to difficult questions and that search, in many cases and in the end, leads to God. When people say that they only believe in what they see and in what they touch, they are actually limiting themselves because life is much more than that. It is during such calamities that many people start thinking of things that they never thought before, they start feeling and living the mystery of life and the mystery of their existence. They understand that it is not possible to find the answers to their questions only by their minds and they start to feel that there are other realities that they can’t see or they can’t touch but are there since undoubtedly they feel the authenticity of such invisible realities. Living in the midst of such tragedies gives them a clue, pushes them to break the boundaries and misconceptions that are limiting them and starts being connected with life’s invisible realities, to the mystery of existence, to the core of knowing what life is. Suffering is a great school to better understand what life is. Suffering is a part of happiness; there is no happiness with no suffering. After the Armenian Genocide, the vast majority of Armenians didn’t lose their faith. I can witness that I got to know many survivors of the Genocide and all of them, especially the women, were deeply faithful people. The same happened to Jews after the Holocaust and to Christians who were cruelly persecuted under the Soviet regime and especially during Stalin’s time.
Humanity should come out of this being stronger and wiser. After WW1, lessons were not learned and then WW2 occurred. After WW2 lessons were learned and there haven’t been any wars in the Western Hemisphere since then, something common prior to WW2. However, lessons were partially learned since there are still many wars and conflicts around the globe.
This crisis will end, the world will not be the same as it was before, and new systems will emerge. But the most important thing is to understand what should be our priorities and accordingly to put our agendas to prevent such things from happening again, to make the world a better place, to make the world a place where conscience is dominant.
Fr. Bedros Shetilian – OCP Articles