17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes
This morning, I wish to recount two tales from Greek mythology which shed light on how we can fully live the Gospel. I want to tell you the stories of how Odysseus and his ship’s crew and Jason with his sailors each survived encounters with the mythical Sirens. The Sirens were beautiful half-woman/half-bird creatures who would sing from their island to passing ships. Their song was so alluring and entrancing that sailors would jump overboard and drown in the sea or steer their vessels into deadly shipwrecks on the rocks.
In The Odyssey, the poet Homer tells how Odysseus on his epic voyage wished to hear the Sirens’ song but also wanted to survive with his men. So Odysseus instructed his crew to tie him to the ship’s mast telling them that, no matter how much he might beg them, they were not untie him but bind him down all the more. Then Odysseus put wax into the ear canals of all his men so they could not hear the Sirens’ song. While rowing their ship past the Sirens, Odysseus pleaded to be released, but his crew faithfully followed his previous instructions until the Sirens were left far behind them and all of them survived.
In the Greek tale of Jason and the Argonauts, Jason and his crew survived the Sirens using a different approach. Aboard their ship was a great musician named Orpheus, a master of an ancient harp called the lyre. While they passed the Sirens’ island, Orpheus plucked the strings of his instrument. And though the Sirens’ sang their evil song, Jason and all his men were so engrossed in the beauty of their friend’s music that none of them were drawn to the Sirens’ temptation.
So we see three strategies reflected in these tales: Odysseus tying himself to the mast, his men keeping wax in their ears, and Jason and his crew being captivated by something more beautiful.
Some people approach certain sins like Odysseus, asking, “How far can I entertain this temptation without falling? How much can I enjoy this sin without suffering consequences?” But with having such a divided heart makes it is very hard to restrain oneself. Others, with more success, approach such sins like Odysseus’ men by giving temptation no hearing. They are not seduced by temptation because they prudently avoid its near occasions. They know where they are weak and adjust their habits accordingly. This strategy should have some place in aspects of all our lives. However, the third strategy against the allure of sin is best of all: to be led by, delighting in, and loving the holy, good, and beautiful.
Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The person in Christ’s parable sacrifices joyfully because he is so values the treasure he has found. Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” A wise merchant can peacefully trade everything else for one most beautiful and desirable thing, to his great personal profit. Jesus, God, is the Pearl of Great Price. Christ’s Kingdom and life with his saints is the treasure we have found.
Let us pray: “Lord God, help me to love you more — your goodness and beauty and love — and to love all that you love as you love it.” Ask Jesus Christ to grow and deepen your love so that as you journey on your life’s voyage your faith may not be shipwrecked but be lived in fullest freedom with peaceful, loving joy.