“They will not be convinced, even if someone should rise from the dead.”


A man lights a cigarette in the dark
“They will not be convinced, even if someone should rise from the dead.”

I have a very good friend who is a drug addict. He hasn’t used any “stuff” for about four years now, but he still calls himself a drug addict. And his story is the usual one.
At about age 12 he started smoking cigarettes, not because he really liked them, but because it was fashionable, all his friends were doing it and also because it was a really good way of annoying his parents. About age 15, he began using a little marijuana because that made him feel good and because there really wasn’t much else in his life at the time that made him feel good. About this time his parents’ marriage was breaking up.

At about age 18, he started smoking heroin. That made him feel better – right up until the time he was convicted of burglary and went to prison for six months. After he came out, he was injecting heroin twice a day to a total of 80 pounds a day. Not surprisingly, he fairly soon ran out of money and wound up street homeless in central London. Fortunately, early in his homeless career, he was picked up by a drugs rehabilitation service. They helped him to “detoxify” – gradually to come off the drugs and overcome the problems of the withdrawal period. And gradually they also helped him to work on the problems that had made him need the drugs in the first place. And – after the usual ups and down – he did very well. After he had been drug-free for 7 years, he became a drugs counsellor, so that he could help other people who were in the same position as he had once been himself. He became a well-known writer and broadcaster on television and radio on the subject of drug abuse. And he achieved a great deal. And you all know where this story is going, don’t you?

His life was back on track… right up to the point that he started taking drugs again. When you ask how or why he started taking drugs again he simply says “Because I’m an addict. That’s what addicts do. It doesn’t make rational sense; simply that is what we do; that is who we are. We are not strong enough to make our own choices – we let powerful external influences control us.”

Like many drug addicts who relapse, he went down very fast. Within a month he was back to his previous level of usage. But his body could not stand it. He got lots of abscesses and other injecting problems. But the hardest thing for him was constantly meeting other addicts whom he had inspired to come off the drugs and constantly feeling that he had let down not just himself, but his family and every friend he had ever had. So, one night, he took a deliberate overdose – alone – sleeping out rough in a shop doorway.

By the purest – most providential - chance he was found by a policeman and taken to hospital. While in hospital, his heart stopped twice, but the doctors managed to restart it.
After ten days, mostly unconscious in the hospital, he woke up, amazed to be alive. And, having been drug free for those ten days, he found that he had another chance at life.

And so he went back to working for people addicted to drugs with the authority of someone who had risen from the dead – and also with the realisation that he was and always will be an addict – he was someone who could be controlled by outside influences which were too powerful for his own strength.

All forms of sin are an addiction. To sin is to do something which we know isn’t healthy; it is being something other than the full person God wants us to be.
But to be a Catholic Christian is to be a sinner who is beloved of God. It is to know that we are addicted to sinfulness of all kinds. And yet also to know that our love of God is stronger than our weakness. And that is our role in the world – to be people risen from the dead. And to witness to the truth that there is a better way. That the addiction does not have to win.

It is true that there are some people who “will not be convinced, even if someone should rise from the dead.” But there are many who, even though they remain addicted to sin, can be brought back to life.

Let us profess our Faith this week in our God who brings the dead back to life.

Paul O'Reilly SJ