Sunday 26 June 2016 - Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem. I will follow you wherever you will go.
26 June is also the International Day against Drug Abuse. When people hear of drugs, they see different things. Some see alcohol, heroin, cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines. They think of chemicals. Other people see narcotics squads, laws, gaol sentences and border controls. They think of how to stop drugs. Still others see gaunt, homeless, isolated young people. They think of the effects of drugs. Finally, those who have accompanied people addicted to drugs often see poverty, family violence, homelessness, lack of education and mental illness. They think of the reasons why people become addicted.
All these aspects of addiction are real and legitimate. But we should always begin by looking into the faces of people whose lives have been afflicted by drugs and remembering their younger faces when their path to addiction began.
Drugs matter because people matter. So when we hear of a war against drugs - not a very helpful phrase - we should imagine it as the struggle to free people from the conditions that encourage addiction and to overcome them. It is a war in which our foot soldiers walk with people who are addicted and where our cavalry provides support for vulnerable people suffering the effects of mental illness, traumatic home experience and isolation. The weapons we carry are the generosity and patience that can change people’s lives for the better.
At Jesuit Social Services that is the war in which we are engaged. We are in it for the long haul, accompanying vulnerable people as they build up trust, staying by them when they relapse and rejoicing with them in their success.
From this perspective the heavy emphasis placed in our society on passing ever more harsh laws against the possession and selling of small quantities of drugs and making prison the primary weapon against drug is crude and often counterproductive. It isolates people from those who care for them, rarely provides effective therapy, and makes it more likely that they will return to drugs when they are released from prison.
Addiction is the mirror image of the way our economy is run. The economy supposes that we are all individuals competing in making wealth, and that money making should be lightly regulated. It further rewards the very wealthy.
The manufacture and distribution of drugs is highly profitable, and attracts highly competitive individuals and cartels. They become rich. But their trade further impoverishes people who by birth and circumstances are its victims.
If the drugs that afflict societies are spread by competition for wealth, their effects can be addressed by walking selflessly with vulnerable people and using our common purse to address the disadvantage that makes them vulnerable.
Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ | Image courtesy of turnbacktogod.com
See Also: What Has God Ever Done For Me?