33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Let us not sleep like the rest do. ~1 Thes 5:6

In Book IX of Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus recounts how his crew arrived in the land of the lotus-eaters. The lotus-eaters were the region’s inhabitants who would feed upon a certain flower that grew there that not only was delicious but also had the effect of causing one to forget about one’s home, family, and general plan of life. Today, we would identify the mythical lotus-plant as a type of narcotic that had euphoric and soporific effects. When Odysseus discovered that some of his men had eaten of the lotus-plant, he was forced to have them dragged back to the ship while they protested, desiring to remain in the land of the lotus-eaters rather than continue their journey home.

Distraction from our primary goals in life is certainly obvious enough to be identified by not only St. Paul but others like Homer as well. The more difficult problem arises when even our primary or secondary goals in life are misidentified. I may readily admit that my primary goal in life is to reach eternal life in heaven, but when I begin inspecting my daily and monthly goals and objectives, I find that my priorities are indistinguishable from that of my neighbor who doesn’t practice any religion. I am mostly concerned about the political, social, medical, or financial situation. These are the issues that stimulate joy. These are the issues that provoke my anger. The reality is that by feeding on these lotus-plants, we become lulled into a distracted (either by apathy or anxiety) posture with regard to our chief priority: getting back home.

Marx famously quipped that religion was “the opiate of the masses.” The true opiate is rather that which distracts us from progressing toward our native land.

Fr. Richard Hinkley