Our local community has been saddened by the death of yet another young person, to drugs. Another grieving family, another empty bedroom, another vacant place at a meal-table. And friends who bear the burden of guilt and regret.
Tragic deaths, like this one, awaken that deep-seated fear that exists in every mother’s heart: will I ever lose a child? Or, worse still, will I lose a child who has rejected the Lord in some great way?
Speaking as someone who abused drugs in my youth, I can admit that consuming illicit drugs always involves some element of self-destruction, some hatred of self, and a great lack of value for human life. This is a terrible rebuff for God. Other sins may involve a rejection of the Church, or of relationships, or of some element of society, but drug-use rejects God’s gift of the world to man in its entirety, because it rejects reality.
It doesn’t seem possible that anyone who has really and deeply experienced the love of God would turn to drugs. It would be very difficult to substitute a true relationship with the Trinity for the dangerous and unstable mirage of a drug-tainted existence. So, could it be argued that a drug-user doesn’t realize the magnitude of his or her ingratitude, and has not full knowledge of the seriousness of his or her actions? Have they tragically sought to fill a spiritual void with a fair-weather friend?
A friend of mine died almost twenty years ago, from a heroin overdose. At his funeral, there was an unmistakable atmosphere of relief. The phenomenon was unexpected, but entirely understandable. His family had endured lies and stealing and broken promises of coming clean, and had probably been expecting a call from the police or hospital for many years. Now that the worst had happened, they could rest more easily. He was hard to be around at times, but had a very sweet nature which shone through, just the same.
2 Maccabees 12:46 tells us that ‘it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.’ So, surely, those that have no-one to pray for them are the ultimate “poorest of the poor.” If I was a Protestant, who didn’t believe in Purgatory, would I sometimes pray for those who have offended God greatly, but are nonetheless yearning for Him on some level? I wonder. Could the Lord be upset with us for believing that many people may not be sufficiently purified to enter the gates of heaven at their death? That we continue our humble acts of charity to our brothers and sisters long after they have passed from the earth?
To pray for the dead requires great faith – there can be no proof of our prayers being answered. And a Catholic doesn’t believe that the existence of Purgatory diminishes the power of God’s Divine Mercy; rather, it shows the perfection of His Justice.
May the God who has healed us, and continues to heal us, bring peace to another grieving family.