Within this multi-year Eucharistic revival, we must not only foster devotion to the sacrament which we recognize as the source and summit of our faith, but we must also remove the obstacles that prevent us from benefiting from this “medicine of immortality”. (Saint Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Ephesians”, circa 100 AD). We believe we have found the real medicine that recreates us, transforms us into what we consume, the very body of our Creator, and therefore must oppose all false substitutes. False medicine poisons the soul.
We become what we consume. Eating healthy food makes the body strong while eating junk food leads to troubles in the body. Worse still, consuming things that blatantly harm our health and mind is a grave sin, harming both body and soul. As a remedy, however, God has given us his own life to consume. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives his own body and blood to be consumed under the appearance of the bread of wine so that, becoming what we consume, we may share his own life – one with him in body, spirit and soul. Through the communion with Christ it offers, the Eucharist enables us to face the temptations and difficulties that accompany our daily bread.
A false diet or consumption of what is harmful to body and soul, however, presents us with the temptation to escape difficulties. Drugs offer fake medicine that covers difficulties without really addressing their cause or providing the strength to overcome them. While the Eucharist transforms us, the drug deforms us into a shadow of ourselves, not more but less alive. Young people turn to drugs out of boredom or distress, in search of something more, in search of a feeling that transcends ordinary life in its intensity to cut through suffering and meaninglessness. It only lasts for a while, because when the feeling goes away, the second state is worse than the first. The Eucharist, though often received as ordinary bread, truly satisfies the transcendent longing within us that pulls us beyond the mundane.
The devastation of drugs can be seen without much effort everywhere you turn in our country. Overdoses, addiction, homelessness, destroyed lives – all of these things have only gotten worse over the past decade to legalize drugs, especially but not exclusively marijuana (see City of Denver and State of Oregon for the most extreme examples). The growing tolerance for this destruction comes from a false compassion and individualism, allowing people to choose a way to seek relief from suffering. We are not helping people, however, by indulging in this false freedom. We abuse both medicinal and recreational drugs, while thinking that we are helping people avoid suffering.
Are drugs real drugs? Medicine leads to healing and promotes good order in the body. The use of drugs for medical purposes does not fulfill any of these purposes, because instead of improving a problem, they lead the mind to avoid it. The “side effect” alters our rational faculty, the highest aspect of who we are, through which we know truth and relate to God. Similarly, one may ask, is the drug really recreational? Although we consider recreation to be a pleasant activity, its etymology, being recreated, points to a renewal of body and mind through leisure. Leisure draws us from frenetic activity towards what is more important: prayer, family, the beauty of nature and culture. Drugs do no such thing, but imprison us within ourselves, shattering our relationship with God and others, making it harder to engage in the actions that matter most.
The Eucharist is the true medicine that recreates us. But to receive the graces of the Eucharist, we must die to ourselves. Many of us don’t feel its transformative effects because we remain attached to the world, seeking other home remedies, if not drugs, then attachments to comforts, distractions, entertainment, and success. The legalization of marijuana and other drugs, seen again on November ballots, offers a false solution, an anti-drug that will only further degrade our society. Although we increasingly disagree with our culture, it would be a tragedy to support something that is so clearly harmful to people.
Living in Colorado, I have seen firsthand the ill effects of marijuana legalization: increased emergency room visits even for children, more teens and adults experimenting with drugs (marijuana is a gateway drug), higher rates of car accidents, an increase (not a decrease as we were promised) in cartel activity, and a general deterioration of the culture. The results are there if anyone will look at them. Legalization corresponds to the general tolerance of our culture, although this type of tolerance quickly turns into chaos. As Catholics, we have the answer to the problems of our culture, and the Eucharistic renewal gives a chance to enhance the true medicine of human life.
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