Resist the sirens.
World-famous works of art hold a unique, timeless message. Homer’s Epic of Odysseus is one such work. The ancient hero seeks his way to Ithaca, where his beloved wife Penelope awaits him. Along the way, he is to pass by an island where beautiful and seductive sirens live. They lure sailors with their singing, who reach dangerous places, are shipwrecked, and perish. Ulysses wants to hear them but doesn’t want to be wrecked. He puts wax on the sailors’ ears, so they can’t listen to them, and he chains himself to the mast of the ship. So, he resists the seduction and saves himself.
It’s a genuinely timeless message. It expresses every man’s situation. He would enjoy as much beauty and happiness as possible, but he would not like to be shipwrecked! But humanity has failed and is failing. Man has fallen for the sirens (seductions). Therefore, the prophet Ezekiel already says in the name of God, “I will take care of my sheep and deliver them from wherever they have scattered to in cloudy and misty times. St. Paul also describes how God gave us: Christ died at the appointed time for the wicked while we were helpless.
So, Jesus became the Good Shepherd for us and rejoiced in man’s salvation: there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance. Man desires happiness (pleasurable experiences). The question is whether what he chooses is true happiness. An alcoholic – does he choose happiness? He does believe that it will bring him joy.
I knew intelligent ladies in one parish who were a terror to business people. The salespeople are on the highest alert when they come into the shop. They steal. They are delighted when they get something illegally. Shame, shame, shame… They’re not deterred by the fact that they sometimes get taken away by the police. We see it with young people, too – how they get carried away by the passions of sensuality and spoil their lives. And now we see it in the elderly too, who should be wise enough by now. They break their lives in open relationships, grow old and then feel empty and alone. The common denominator of their unhappiness – they get swept away by the sirens. To resist, one must chain oneself to something more substantial, like Odysseus to the mast. Man chooses by attraction. If the sirens had been more attractive to Ulysses, he would not have returned to Penelope. Man chooses more beautiful things. An offer from God – the heart of Jesus. What is the attraction? In the interest of love. Man sadly often does not perceive it.
Man cannot choose by attraction. Chinese folk wisdom says: Only a dead fish swims downstream. Fish – like other animals, go upstream driven by instinct and instinct, which they have received through nature from the Creator. Man has a reason and will, and these forces must carry him through the attraction of the sirens. Man, through reason and will, is supposed to be able to resist the forces that pull him downstream. These things are indeed from God, but man is not to remain with them and forget the Giver, the Creator. For the gift does not see the Giver. Lust is thus greater than man’s reason and will. Man wants both to hear the sirens and to return. He does not resist, and so he goes to perdition. The greatness of God is that He seeks man.
Let us not forget that there is the attraction of God’s love, His Heart! In the prayer for the Year of Mercy, your gaze of love freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from the bondage of money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in creation; moved Peter to tears after his betrayal, and secured paradise for the repentant thief. Twenty years ago, when I was in Bratislava, we had Sunday evening Masses for the youth. They were the most popular because there were youth choirs and dialogical sermons. When asked why he believed and liked God most, one student replied: What fascinates me about God is his mercy. At the time, none of us knew there would be a Pope Francis and a Year of Mercy.
As you can see, there is nothing new under the sun. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart shows us that God has been presenting Himself to us for centuries as the Merciful Father. And today’s readings show that it is not centuries, but millennia! Like Ulysses, every age has a choice before it. When Judah, having conquered the Promised Land, said to his people: I offer you life or death, good or evil. Choose the Lord, that you may live long.
In the famous book Salvation History, we read an excerpt from the Diary of a Priest: In the evening, truck park in front of the rectory. The driver rings the bell and asks if there is a Mass. When the priest tells him it is already morning, he timidly asks if he could receive Holy Communion. Seeing how genuinely manly he was in receiving the Lord and giving him the blessing, I realized that he should have given me the gift – the priest said. This driver understood what he had to attach himself to in order not to fail.
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