Patriarch Sabbah: ‘The epidemic is not a punishment for any sin’

Posted on Apr 4, 2020



by Patriarch Michel Sabbah

About the epidemic too… Is it a punishment?

Some may ask this question: Is this epidemic a punishment from God for humanity, for its many evils, wars, injustices, famines, misuse of religion, discrimination between poor and rich and so on?

First, the epidemic is a normal consequence of human attitudes, the result of human science or ignorance. It is the result of peoples’ relationship with each other. Humanity has to face it with all its scientific capacities. The believers who seee God, face it with prayer, as well as turn to God, good, almighty and loving all humankind. Distress becomes a way back to God, a means of purifying oneself, coming closer to God, Creator, and to all one’s brothers and sisters in humanity.

Second, every distress or sickness is not necessarily a consequence of sin. When the Apostles asked Jesus about the blind since his birth ( cf John 9: 1-41): “’Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should have been born blind? Jesus answered: 3’Neither he nor his parents sinned” (v. 2). So this epidemic does not mean that it came as a punishment of any sin.

Adversity, disease and disasters are caused by the order of nature and by the ability or inability of man to deal with it. Sometimes man has enough science and power to dominate nature, and sometimes man comes to know that his science is not enough. He still needs more, as in the epidemic that we are experiencing these days.

Thirdly, God’s relationship with us is first a relationship of life. God does not want for man to die or to be punished. Scripture says: “I do not take pleasure in the death of the wicked but in the conversion of the wicked who changes his ways and saves his life” (Ezekiel 33: 11). The book of Wisdom also says: “13For God did not make death, he takes no pleasure in destroying the living. 14To exist — for this he created all things; the creatures of the world have health in them, in them is no fatal poison, and Hades has no power over the world:15 for uprightness is immortal” (Wisdom 1: 13-15).

In the Holy Gospel we read: God “causes His sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike” (Mt 5: 45).

God’s relationship with us is therefore essentially a relationship of mercy and justice, and patience until we repent, repair and compensate the evil with which we harmed ourselves or others.

Does that mean that the wicked in this life doesn’t get punished?

God is present in this life with His love, mercy, and His justice as well. God rewards every human being according to his/her actions. Each act carries in itself its remuneration, its punishment or reward.

Sometimes it seems that bad people are not punished, like those tyrant oppressors of peoples, and corrupt leaders or individuals… No one escapes from oneself, from human justice, or from God’s justice, here, in this earthly life. Sometimes punishment is seen by others, sometimes, it is not. God alone knows that it happened. All are present before God’s love, and His justice.



Saint John the apostle, said in his first letter: “Love consists in this: it is not we who loved God, but God loved us and sent His Son to expiate our sins. 11 My dear friends, if God loved us so much, we too should love one another (1 John 4: 10-11). He also said: “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life (John 3: 16).

In this time of pandemic and distress, it is good to remember this truth: God loves us. God’ fundamental relation with us is the relation of creation and love. God creates us in every moment. He cares for us in every moment. He loves us in every moment. Therefore, we put in His hands our concerns, the concerns of our people and of the whole world, and we simply pray the prayer we learned from Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God;

‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen”.

Being sure that God loves us, we remain strong, we do not surrender to panic and fear. The believer must not be afraid. And, we reflect on the events. What does God want to tell us because every event in our lives is a word from Him, to each and every one of us? The events we experience today, with the whole world, are also a word for each of us. Let each one of us ask oneself: How do I behave with God, our Father? How do I behave with all my brothers and sisters in humanity? Let us repent and turn everything in us into “love”, the same as God is love, and love will create a new world.