last week I was visiting the 6th grade. They were reading Homer’s Tale of Ulysses and the Sirens. After reading this tale with the 6th graders I got an idea for a homily.
“Ulysses awoke and called his crew about him, ‘Men’ he said. ‘Listen well, for your lives today hang upon what I am about to tell you…We must pass through a narrow strait. And at the head of the narrow strait where dwells two sisters called Sirens, whose voice you must not hear. Now I shall guard you against their singing, which will lure you to shipwreck, but first you must bind me to the mast. Tie me tightly, as though I were a dangerous captive. And no matter how I struggle, no matter what signals I make to you, do not release me, lest I follow their voice to destruction, taking you with me.”
The sirens are an image of temptation. The voice of sin is sweet but it only leads to destruction. Ulysses being tied to the mast is an image of knowing his weakness in the face of temptation. Many times we must spiritually tie ourselves to the Mast of Christ. An example, if someone is addicted to wine than they can’t even go into a bar. The Siren voice which sound so peaceful says, “what harm in one drink?” But the addict knows he must reject the sirens call and never step inside of a bar.
“Ulysses took a large lump of beeswax and he went to each men of the crew and plugged his ears with soft wax; he caulked their ears so tightly that they could hear nothing but the tin pulsing of their own blood. Ulysses had his own ears unplugged because he had to remain in command of the ship and had need of his hearing. Every sound means something upon the sea…. All his strength surged towards the sound of those magical voices. The very hair of his head seemed to be tugging at his scalp, trying to fly away. His eyeballs started out of his head. Louder now, and clearer, the tormenting voices came to Ulysses. Again he was aflame with desire. But try as he might he could not break the thick anchor line. He strained against it until he bled, but the line held.”
Because Ulysses knew his weakness and tied himself to the mast he did not give into the Siren Music. This is an image of the line from the act of contrition, “I will avoid the near occasion of sin.”
“Now they were passing the rock, and Ulysses could see the singers. There were two of them. They sat on a heap of white bones- the bones of shipwrecked sailors- and sang more beautifully than senses could bear. But their appearances did not match their voices, for they were shaped like birds, huge birds,larger than eagles. They had feathers instead of hair, and their hands and feet were claws. But their faces were the faces of young girls…When Ulysses saw them he was able to forget the sweetness of their voices because their look was so fearsome. He closed his eyes against the terrible sight of these bird-women perched on the heap of bones. But when he closed hie eyes he could not see their ugliness, then their voices maddened him once again, and he felt himself straining against the bloody ropes. He forced himself to open his eyes and look upon the monsters, so that the terror of their bodies would blot the beauty of their voices.”
Sin always sounds attractive. But like the sirens what looks attractive is ugly and causes destruction. We must like be Ulysses and tie ourselves spiritually to the “Mast of the Cross.” When we feel ourselves being tempted by the sweet voice of sin we must cling to the Cross of Christ. When we do this Jesus will keep up safe till we are safely past the Sirens.