Within this multiyear Eucharistic Revival, we should not only foster devotion to the sacrament we recognize as the source and summit of our faith, but we must also remove the obstacles that keep us from benefiting from this “medicine of immortality” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Ephesians,” c. 100AD). We believe that we have found the true medicine that recreates us, transforming 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 disorder within the body. Even worse, consuming things that blatantly damage our health and impair our mind constitute 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 provides his own body and blood to consume under the appearance of bread of wine so that becoming what we consume, we may share in his own life — one with him in body, mind and soul. Through the communion with Christ it offers, the Eucharist enables us to face the temptations and difficulties that come along with our daily bread.
A false eating or consumption of what is harmful to body and soul, however, presents us with a temptation to escape from difficulties. Drugs offer a false medicine that cover over difficulties without truly addressing their cause or providing any strength to overcome them. While the Eucharist transforms us, drugs deform us into a shadow of ourselves, not more but less alive. Young people turn to drugs out of boredom or distress, looking for something more, seeking a feeling that transcends ordinary life through its intensity to cut through suffering and meaninglessness. This lasts only for a time, as, when the feeling leaves, the second state is worse than the first. The Eucharist, though often received as if ordinary bread, truly satisfies the transcendent longing in us that pulls us beyond the mundane.
The devastation of drugs can be seen without much effort anywhere you turn in our country. Overdoses, addiction, homelessness, destroyed lives — all of these things have only become worse in the push over the last decade to legalize drugs, especially but not exclusively marijuana (see the city of Denver and the state of Oregon for the most extreme examples). The growing tolerance to this destruction comes from a false compassion and individualism, allowing people to choose a means of seeking relief from suffering. We are not helping people, however, by indulging this false freedom. We are misusing drugs both medicinally and recreationally, while thinking that we are helping people avoid suffering.
Are drugs true medicine? Medicine leads to healing and promotes a right ordering of the body. The use of drugs for medicinal purposes does not fulfill either of these goals, because instead of improving a problem they lead the mind to avoid the issue. The “side effect” is impairing our rational faculty, the highest aspect of who we are, through which we know the truth and relate to God. Likewise, we can ask, do drugs really provide recreation? Although we view recreation as an enjoyable activity, its etymology, to be recreated, points to a renewal of body and mind through leisure. Recreation pulls us out of frenetic activity to what is more important — prayer, family, the beauty of nature and culture. Drugs do no such thing, but trap us within ourselves, breaking our relationship to God and others, making it harder to engage in the actions that matter most.
The Eucharist is the true medicine that re-creates us. But to receive the graces of the Eucharist, we have to die to ourselves. Many of us do not experience its transforming effects because we remain attached to the world, seeking other self-made remedies, if not drugs, then attachments to comfort, distractions, entertainment and success. Legalizing marijuana and other drugs, which we once again see on the ballot this November, offers a false solution, an anti-medicine that will only further degrade our society. Although we find ourselves more and more at odds with our culture, it would be a tragedy to support something that’s so clearly harmful for people.
Living in Colorado, I have seen firsthand the harmful effects of legalizing marijuana: increasing ER visits even for children, more teens and adults experimenting with drugs (marijuana is a gateway drug), higher rates of car crashes, increased (not decreased as we were promised) activity of cartels and a general deterioration of culture. The results are in if anyone cares to observe. Legalization fits with the general tolerance of our culture, although this kind of toleration quickly turns into chaos. As Catholics we have the answer to our culture’s problems, and the Eucharistic Revival gives a chance to showcase the true medicine of human life.