Jun 23, 2020 837 Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa,

Can God Make Mistakes?

Did God the Father possibly desire the death of His Son in order to draw good out of it?

Ally of the Virus!

While he was painting frescoes in Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London, the artist, James Thornhill became so excited about his fresco that he stepped back to see it better, unaware that he was about to fall over the edge of the scaffolding. His horrified assistant understood that crying out to him would only hasten the disaster. Without thinking twice, he dipped a brush in paint and hurled it at the middle of the fresco. Appalled, the master sprang forward. His work was damaged, but his life was saved.

God does this with us sometimes. He disrupts our peace and our projects to save us from the abyss in front of us. But we need to be careful not to be deceived. God is not the one who hurled the brush at the sparkling fresco of our technological society. God is our ally, not the ally of the virus! He himself says in the Bible, “I have…plans for your welfare and not for woe” (Jeremiah 29:11). If these scourges were punishments from God, they would not strike the good and the bad equally. Nor would the poor suffer the worst consequences. Are they worst sinners? No!

Jesus, the one who wept after the death of His friend, Lazarus, grieves with us today for the scourge that has befallen humanity. Yes, God “suffers”, like every parent when their child is afflicted. When we learn this one day, we will be ashamed of all the accusations we made against Him in life. God participates in our pain to overcome it. “Being supremely good”— wrote Saint Augustine—“God would not allow any evil in His works, unless in his omnipotence and goodness, he is able to bring forth good out of evil.”

Unfettered Freedom

Did God the Father possibly desire the death of His Son in order to draw good out of it? No, he simply permitted human freedom to take its course. However, He made it serve a greater purpose for the benefit of all human beings. This is also the case for natural disasters like earthquakes and plagues. He does not bring them about. He has given nature a kind of freedom as well, qualitatively different than that of human beings, but still a form of freedom. He did not create a world as a programmed clock whose movements could all be anticipated. It is what some call “chance” but the Bible calls instead “the wisdom of God.”

Does God perhaps like to be petitioned so that He can grant His benefits? Can our prayer perhaps make God change his plans? No, but there are things that God has decided to grant us as the fruit of both His grace and our prayer. It is as if He shares with His creatures the credit for the benefit received. God is the one who prompts us to do it: “Seek and you will find,” Jesus said; “knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

When the Israelites were bitten by poisonous serpents in the desert, God commanded Moses to lift up a serpent of bronze on a pole. Whoever looked at it would not die. Jesus appropriated this symbol to Himself when he told Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). At this moment, we have also been bitten by an invisible, poisonous “serpent.” Let us gaze upon the one who was “lifted up” for us on the Cross. Let us adore Him on behalf of ourselves and of the whole human race. The one who looks on Him with faith does not die. And eternal life is promised to the person of faith when death does come.


Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa

©Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa is the preacher to the Papal household from the time of Pope John Paul II. A prolific author, Father Cantalamessa is also a popular speaker, invited to give talks and retreats around the world.

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