Sunday, December 03, 2006

Satan’s Lullaby: ‘Rock-A-Bye Christian’

(First Sunday of Advent (C): This homily was given on December 3, 2006, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: First Sunday of Advent 2006]

It’s a lullaby that we all know:

Rock-a-bye, baby, in the tree top

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will come baby, cradle and all.

For generations, mothers have sung that lullaby to their little children in order to put them to sleep. Sometimes it’s worked, and sometimes (sad to say) it hasn’t—as most of the mothers here will surely attest.

Now Jesus doesn’t explicitly say it in today’s Gospel text from Luke 21, but he certainly implies it: he implies that the world in which we live sings us a kind of lullaby each and every day, for the purpose of putting us to sleep spiritually. And so he warns us: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.”

The “day” he’s referring to here, of course, is the “day of judgment”—the day we will see him face to face and have to give him an account of our life. St. Paul intercedes for the Thessalonians in today’s second reading, praying that they will be ready for that decisive day in their future. In a certain sense, he also prayed these words 2000 years ago for you and for me: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.”

Satan, obviously, doesn’t want us to be ready for the coming of the Lord! He wants us to be “asleep”: caught up in ourselves and in the pleasures and concerns of this earthly life. And so, through his agents in the world (and there are many of them out there these days), he sings us what might be called his “Rock-a-bye Christian” lullaby! It’s not a song that we hear with our physical ears, but it’s definitely a “tune” that’s in the background of so much that we see and hear on a daily basis.

And it seems to be working with many. Sad to say, Satan’s Lullaby (which might also be called “the World’s Lullaby”) seems to be having its desired effect on a large number of professed followers of Jesus Christ.

Think, for a moment, of the some of the areas of life where many Christians appear to be “asleep”:

  • Every year at this time, the so-called “Christmas wars” begin. Men and women all over this country are more than happy to make a buck off of Jesus’ birthday, but some of them don’t want to acknowledge that he even existed! You know the story: your employer tells you to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ and not ‘Merry Christmas’ (funny how freedom of speech goes out the window when Christianity is involved!); the ACLU sues a town for allowing a crèche scene on public property, but totally ignores the menorah and the Islamic star and crescent displayed on the same public land; children are told they can’t sing Christmas carols in their public school, but in the name of ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ they’re forced to study Islam and Judaism in one of their classes. The list, of course, goes on and on. And unfortunately many Christians are totally passive in the face of it all! They do and say nothing as their Savior is slandered and their freedom of religion is undermined. They’re asleep.
  • The very fact that the Supreme Court has had to deal with a case on partial birth abortion in recent weeks shows how asleep many Americans are when it comes to issues regarding the sanctity of human life. You mean we can’t figure out that it’s wrong to kill a baby when everything but the child’s head has come out of its mother’s womb? We need 9 judges to tell us whether it’s right or wrong? Satan’s lullaby has really worked relative to that one.
  • And it’s working more and more with respect to issues concerning the traditional, nuclear family. Where, for example, is the united Christian opposition to so-called “gay marriage”? As Catholics, of course, we are to love everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. It’s not a sin to have same-sex attraction; what’s sinful is the activity associated with it. Thus we must oppose “gay marriage”. But it still may become a reality in our society in the near future, because all too many professed Christians refuse to make their politicians accountable for the positions they take on the issue. They’re asleep.

And how many Christians are remaining silent as the gay agenda and the gay lifestyle are being promoted more and more, especially in our schools? It’s gotten so bad that even Wal-Mart is now on board! Did you know that Wal-Mart recently joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and has agreed to support that organization financially? Think about that as you do your Christmas shopping this year. Believe it or not, one way to show that you’re not “asleep” is by the way you shop. [I am pleased to note that, due in large part to the protests of Christians who are “awake,” Wal-Mart has changed its policy since this homily was written. In an official statement, the company said: Wal-Mart will not make corporate contributions to support or oppose highly controversial issues unless they directly relate to our ability to serve our customers.”]

  • As I hear the sad news about marriages breaking up on an almost daily basis, I’m reminded of how asleep many people are when it comes to the issue of pre-marital cohabitation, which became fashionable in the 1960s and is extremely common today, even among Catholic couples. Here’s another ‘did you know’: Did you know that couples who live together before marriage have a 50% higher divorce rate compared to couples who don’t cohabitate before the wedding? Most people don’t know that—and believe me Satan is quite pleased that most people in our country are ignorant of that fact! And 60% of the couples who live together before marriage never even make it to the altar! Without question, the statistics tell the story: Just on the practical level alone, cohabitation isn’t a good thing! But obviously many young people today are sound asleep when it comes to recognizing its dangers.

Rock-a-bye, Christian, faithful and true

Just listen to me, I’m in it for you

Forget about Christ; come under my spell;

And some day you’ll join me, forever in hell.

Whether we are conscious of it or not, that demonic lullaby is sung to us every single day, in many different situations of life (including the ones I just mentioned). But in the midst of all this there is some good news. The good news is that we, as Catholics, have the knowledge and the power available to us in Christ to resist the promptings of this lullaby! The knowledge comes through Scripture and the Catechism; the power comes through prayer and the sacraments.

Knowledge and power—knowledge and grace—can keep us awake! They can keep us from “nodding off” and falling into serious sin, like so many others. You could say they’re the spiritual equivalent of that product, “No-Doze”.

May this Advent be a time for all of us to grow in knowledge and in power, so that we will wake up (if we’re not in that condition already)—and so that we will stay awake until the “day” when we personally meet Jesus Christ face to face.