"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where theives break in and steal;
"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume and where thieves do not break in and steal.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.
"If then the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
"No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
Demons & Disease
There is a story I have heard from many people—perhaps it counts as a parable now—of a white, Western missionary to Africa bringing the gospel to Africans. Yet at the same time he also brought his Western, scientific mindset, and he taught it as reality as much as Christ as reality.
The missionary is talking to an African man, telling him that sickness and disease does not in fact come from demons, as this African’s spiritual paradigm taught him; disease comes from bacteria and viruses. So one day the missionary brings a microscope and shows the African what these microscopic things look like, as proof of his scientific understanding.
The African looks at the missionary and says, “Aha! So that is what a demon looks like!”
I was reminded of this story one week this summer in talking to “Arche”, a former gangbanger, user, and now second-in-charge of Homeboy Industries under Father Greg.
He had used a number of drugs in his life before coming to Homeboy, including coke and meth. He was telling me that, as he reads the Bible and engages the talk of the spiritual world, of spirits and angels and demons in spiritual warfare, he suspects that when a human being takes one of those drugs, more than chemicals enter the human person.
He tells me that he sees the human being as having free will from reading the Bible; but at the moment the chemicals are let in and start to work on the body, something else starts to work on the soul—evil spirits that seek to take that free will from the person.
He is not the only one to relay this idea to me. A hostess at the Cafe, whom I will call "Madre," told me once that "you can't be addicted to drugs and not believe in demons."
At least to Arche, taking drugs meant an escape at the time; but it was an escape into bondage. He liberated his Self into imprisonment. He illuminated his pain with darkness; "If then the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"
The Eye's Treasure is Master
If the process of sight sustains "the lamp of the body," perhaps the process of ingestion sustains the soul itself. "You are what you eat," as they say: Or, rather, you become what you take in. In days past, Arche's eye sought what drugs offered. His eye fixated on darkness, he took that darkness into his body, and darkness covered his heart, mind, and soul.
The darkness takes many forms for us. Pornography, for example, ensnares a grievously high number of people today. It appeals to the God-given capacity to look at what is beautiful and call it "good" or a "delight to the eyes" (Gen. 1.4, 3.6), even to the good desires of belonging and intimacy, but it removes the person of everyone it touches. It removes realities and offers power (cf. Gen. 3.1, 4-5), a fantasy. It is like the drug: Find what you have been created to seek—in pornography, belonging; in drugs, transcendence—but give up your person to do so.
Arche became an addict to his darkness. He would sacrifice, temporarily, his free will for the solace found in the high. "No one can serve two masters," and Arche could not give himself to the drug and yet remain in control of himself (cf. 1 Cor. 9.27).
Because what fills the eye, the body will treasure; and what the body treasures will rule it.
For Arche, his eye was once filled with drugs, and the evil spirits of addiction ruled him. Now, he fixates upon devotion to his community, belief in his God, discipline of his body, and these things rule him. And to anyone that knows him now, these things are easily seen pouring forth from him.
One day, the Lord willing, Arche will run Homeboy, after Father G does no longer. He is someone from the same world as the demographic of Homeboy’s clients, taught and developed by Father G and the Scriptures the Church holds so highly. His spirituality, and particularly its interaction with reality, will also guide and teach and develop members of this community for years to come.
I do not know if he is right about this spiritual component of drug use, about spiritual and chemical being parallel, but I do not think that he is wrong either. I do know that his suspicion gave me more insight into the world living around Homeboy. Even people who do not grow up in the Church, people who have been in the middle of the world, see something spiritual behind the concrete reality that they can experience by their five senses.
And I think I can learn a bit from this. Perhaps the food I eat is not merely food. Perhaps the videos and pictures I see are not merely images. And what do the food I eat, or the music I choose, or the movies I watch all have to say about what I treasure and, therefore, what rules me?