7th Sunday (A)
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
19th February, 2023
“Moderation in all things”
The news that the country is awash with cocaine is disturbing – to put it mildly. Listening to a recently retired garda assistant commissioner he is in no doubt that every town and village in the country is part of the market place for suppliers of illegal drugs. The obvious follow on to that is that cocaine use is prevalent in every segment of society – in the professions, in the commercial world as well among young people in college and apprenticeship and the unemployed.
It is widely acknowledged that when it comes to domestic violence, of which we’re told from various agencies, there is a huge increase that substance abuse plays a direct role.
Therefore, it is no accident that in our liturgical calendar we set aside a Sunday to draw attention to the need for Temperance in our use of gifts given us. It is common to-day to dethrone people from pedestals in order to cancel their impact on history. This is unlikely to be the plight of Fr. Matthew’s statue on Patrick’s Street. In doing they might wonder how he stuck the smell of the river Lee over the years but no one denies the trojan effort he made to introduce the idea of Temperance to ordinary families cursed into desperation and poverty by the abuse of alcohol.
The concept/idea of Temperance is grounded in appreciation of gifts in life rather than rejection and negativity. In his spiritual insight and wisdom, he harnessed the generosity of those who could sacrifice their own enjoyment of alcohol to pray for and encourage those who struggled to manage or control their drinking. Reading the Lenten pastoral letters of my predecessor Bishop Robert Browne he time and again appeals for Temperance. So the plea for Temperance has a long history.
To-day we live in a culture of abundance, even excess, in personal choice and freedom. It surrounds us so much it is difficult for people to be moderate in our consumption and be in control of our choices. This reality weakens our moral fibre to recognise that over-indulgence is not just unhealthy, it is wrong and sinful. This is especially tough for young people who need mentors and models for right living.
The reality is that the erosion of the spiritual scaffolding which supports and sustains a balanced and wholesome life, that erosion is having profound social consequences for our families and society. Sadly, there is a failure by most in civic leadership to acknowledge this fact. This may be due to cowardice, a lack of courage to confront the ideologies that seek to eliminate any trace of religious faith from public institution and life. Our political correctness risks leaving us with the lowest common denominator of utterly diluted values that serve as masks for the promotion of a flawed version of tolerance. When it comes to substance abuse, we need more than information – we need formation, spiritual formation.
For so many whose lives are caught in the grasp of addiction it is the 12-step spiritual programme pioneered by AA that has enabled them to live again, to recover sobriety and balance through trust in a higher power – whatever they understand it – along with the support and understanding of spouses and friends.
The proliferation of cocaine is disturbing in itself but it is a symptom of deeper issues that we are reluctant to face – that unencumbered self-gratification and excess do not lead to contented wholesome living.