Wine and Drunkenness — Tuesday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time—Year I

“God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. … Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.”

Everything that God has made is good, but anything can be misused or abused in ways that are wrong. A volleyball-sized amount of Uranium can provide electrical power to 200 U.S. homes for a year, but it can also be used in a single bomb to level a city like Hiroshima. The complimentarily of man and woman is very good.  They were made for each other, but they sometimes use each other in painful and unloving ways.

What about alcohol in its many forms? Is it good or bad? On the one hand, the Scriptures praise God for it as a gift: “You bring bread from the earth, and wine to gladden our hearts.” (Psalm 104:14-15) Yet throughout, the Scriptures also caution about the sin of drunkenness: “…Do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, [instead] be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) You’ll recall that Jesus provided wine for the wedding feast of Cana, yet He would not be pleased if the guests used His gift for getting trashed.  If we are adults we may only drink alcohol in moderation, and if we are still minors we may only consume it under our parents’ direct supervision. Anything else is misuse, abuse, immoral and dangerous.

But what about illegal or recreational drugs? Can they be used in moderation? No, there is no moderation in this, for the entire goal of using them is to get high, to become intoxicated. If you have never abused drugs or alcohol, I hope you never start; and if you have, I hope you never will again.

Please do not dismiss this teaching as merely the tradition of your elders; for it is God’s command that we should never get drunk or high. God forbids it, just as every good parent forbids it of their children, because getting intoxicated is harmful and dangerous for us. The Scriptures say, “Honor your father and your mother,” and, “Whoever curses father or mother shall die.” Indeed, those who spurn their parents in this can taste sin and death in many forms.

When you’re intoxicated you make dumb decisions. (I don’t know about you, but I already make enough dumb mistakes in a day as it is.) Someone who is drunk or high will do impulsive, stupid things that they would never do otherwise. You lose control of yourself and become vulnerable to others. I don’t want any of you to wake up a morning after, regretting some serious thing done the night before. I don’t want any young woman here to find herself with child, and be tempted to do something terrible.

Imagine which experience would be worse as a consequence of getting intoxicated? To die alone from driving your car off a road into a tree, or to survive a head-on collision that kills a stranger or a friend? Go too far just once and alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose can have you pass out and never wake up again, put you in a coma or make you drown in your own vomit.

Or consider the risk and costs of addiction. Any recovering alcoholic can tell you a story about how much addiction costs, and any smoker can tell you how hard additions are to break. Of course, not everyone who gets drunk or high will become an addict, but some will, and after the first use of certain drugs, addiction is all but certain. With addiction, even if drug or alcohol abuse never sends you to prison, it can still cost you your freedom. And even if drug use never takes your life, it can cost lives of people far away.

Did you know that since 2007 there have been over 35,000 deaths in Mexico from the violence of their organized crime drug cartels? That’s almost ten times the number of American troops who have died in combat since 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why so much violence? It’s because the Mexican drug cartels make more than one hundred billion dollars a year from selling marijuana and other drugs to Americans, and they will murder or assassinate whoever stands up to them. When we buy their drugs, we’re supporting their terror.

Today I set before you life and death; choose life. If you have never abused drugs or alcohol, I hope you never start; and if you have, I hope you never do again. May no one ever say of Columbus Dons as Jesus said of the Pharisees: their hands are clean in public and ‘they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’

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