Sin (Like a Virus)
World War Z, staring Brad Pitt, is an apocalyptic horror film that is centered around a human virus that spreads through bites, which changes the chemistry of the brain and transforms humans into creatures (zombies) that behave like rabid animals. In the movie, panic spreads and whole countries go into hiding fearing death, and something worse—the shame of being transformed in seconds into something less than human.
And isn’t that interesting? In the plot of World War Z, and most any zombie movie, human beings would rather die than be turned into a monster.
At the conclusion of my latest viewing of World War Z, it dawned on me that sin is like a virus. Sin leads us to be less than who we are, and in grave matter, leads to monster-like behavior. The sin of addiction changes the chemistry of the brain and transforms human behavior. In fact, the characteristics of a virus are eerily like sin.
* Viruses are clever, they don’t die. If they are without a host, they go dormant until the right conditions come along so they can grow and multiply.
* Satan, the advocate of our sinful nature, is aware of our errant addictions. If we fail to address such dependencies and obsessions, no matter how dormant they appear, they will come back to haunt us.
* A virus is a tiny microbe that you can only see with a microscope.
* Venial sin is subtle: an attachment to a worldly pleasure, the welcoming of a bit of anger, a dash of ego—these are all microbes that can easily grow and fester into mortal sin—the grave matter that leads to spiritual death.
*Viruses need a host to survive. They spread rapidly and do a lot of damage to the host, destroying cells and causing diseases, which leads to physical death.
*Once we commit a sin, if it goes unchecked, it spreads rapidly. It damages our behavior, destroys relationship and leads to spiritual death.
In the end, a virus is a virus. You can call it something other than what it is, but it does not change what it is or what it can do to you. Equally, a sin is a sin. You can call it something other than what it is, but it does not change what it is or what it can do to you.
Since my latest viewing of World War Z, I cannot get the question out of my head: what if we had the same aversion to sin as the characters in World War Z had to the virus? Sin “is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods” (CCC 1849). To paraphrase Saint Augustine, sin is the desire for things contrary to God. Sin, in its worst form, intoxicates right reason and turn us into monsters.
In World War Z, humanity was saved because Gerry Lane, the character played by Brad Pitt, made himself sick to repel the zombies (the zombies instinctually knew not to bite infected hosts). Gerry lane passed through the shadow of death for the world and found a cure for the monster-like behavior. The world would have its antidote because the heroism of one man. There is another antidote and another cure, because there is the another here—the greatest hero, Christ!
Christ conquered sin and death and He gives us an antidote to sin in the sacrament of Confession. As John the Evangelist reminds us: “If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). Let us be “cleansed” from the virus of sin and live pure and untainted lives. And as we do, let us pray the words of the psalmist with confidence: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).