The media is saturated these days with the latest news of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) – which symptoms to look out for, how it spreads, and what steps must be taken to prevent, contain or treat it. But this Coronavirus is not unique in making headlines in Singapore – remember SARS, H1N1 and zika before it? And other viral infections – influenza, gastric flu, dengue, AIDS/HIV, and hand, foot and mouth disease – are a fact of everyday, real life here. Even in our digital lives, we are not spared – all manner of new and continually mutating viruses plague our computers, sometimes irreparably.
Some intellectuals claim there is a virus that wreaks havoc with our spiritual lives too:
“I think of religion as a dangerous virus. It’s a virus which is transmitted partly through teachers and clergy, but also down the generations from parent to child to grandchild. Children are especially vulnerable to infection by the virus of religion.”
Richard Dawkins, 2006
“Has anything caused as much human suffering as religion? You might say disease, but religion itself is a disease, of the human race and of individual minds. Persecution, war, torture, terror, bodily pain, mental anguish, profound misery, wasted lives are the chief products of religion.” Jillian Becker, 2012
If they are right, then Christianity is a disease and the above its symptoms. God is a virus that has infected the Body of Christ, baptised Christians are confirmed cases, while those undergoing rites of Christian initiation are in quarantine. Priests and religious are super-carriers, with the most potent in the Vatican cluster.
But they are wrong. The only true virus of the soul is the devil.
The Virus of Evil
We know from medical science that viruses are little pieces of DNA that are powerless to replicate by themselves outside a host, and which can only reproduce through the cells they invade. We become infected only if we are exposed to the virus and our immune system fails to defend us against it. And if we let the symptoms go unchecked and untreated, the virus can debilitate or destroy us completely.
In the spiritual world, the evil one is a virus and the DNA he wants to replicate is sin. Those who insist that religion is a virus have themselves become victims and unwitting spreaders of a ruthless, self-serving spiritual pathogen that wants to cripple us with pride, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath and envy, and make us delirious with fear, distrust, discouragement and above all, lose faith in God. Being “genetically” predisposed towards infection because of concupiscence i.e our natural tendency to sin, the evil one makes sure we are continually exposed to sin and temptation every moment. Satan knows our natural immune system i.e. our conscience and will, is often too weak to prevent us from translating sinful thoughts into sinful actions.
We are already confirmed cases: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) If we fail to seek further treatment during this incubation period here on earth and purgatory, we risk allowing the evil one’s toeholds in our minds to become footholds in our hearts, and then strongholds in our being. When they become strangleholds, we become super-carriers of his Black Death, dragging ourselves and others to eternal damnation.
The process of spiritual infection, in the words of St James, is: “One is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14,15)
Yet, without human souls to infect and infest, the devil is utterly powerless.
The God Vaccine
In the spiritual world, the only vaccine that can be effective against the virus of the evil one is the Divine one.
Although created in his image and likeness, but already contaminated by original sin, we are still loved so much by our heavenly Father that he sent his only son Jesus to set us free from the prince of lies who infected our parents in the Garden of Eden and caused their isolation from God.
Remaining sinless throughout his earthly life, Jesus had perfect immunity against the Devil and in turn, throughout his public ministry, immunised many and restored them to the fullness of a virus free. Then taking upon himself not just the sins of all mankind, but also original sin – the residual antigens from the Fall – He utterly defeated Satan once and for all time by nailing them to the cross. Through his resurrection, ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Body of Christ was inoculated forever with the Divine vaccine and flooded with antibodies of faith, hope, love and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to build up immunity. The fruits of the Holy Spirit were signs of reconciliation and recovery to optimal health.
But God also gave man the free will to choose whether to be vaccinated or not. That is why we who have been baptised and “discharged” have to tell everyone, with great urgency, of the Good News of our discovery of this vaccine, and convince others to accept it, so as to boost the natural immunity of those who have not yet heard the Gospel and so, in the end, to eradicate the virus of evil from the world.
“Physician, heal yourself”
The virus of evil is more pervasive than all the pathogens of the real and digital worlds put together. The xenophobia, spreading of fake news and misinformation, panic-buying and hoarding, division and disunity we are experiencing during this COVID-19 crisis are but symptoms of the Satan’s scourge.
As children of the Father, members of the Body of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit, we carry within us the divine power to heal ourselves and others of the virus of evil. Let us avail ourselves of this grace to fulfill our calling to be ministers of the Gospel and administers of the Divine vaccine, by practicing spiritual and corporal works of mercy, especially in this season of Lent and let us do so with joy for: “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)