Readings (Year A):
Reflection: A call to a deeper conversion
“There were three frogs sitting on a log over a pond. One of the frogs decided to jump into the pond. So, then how many frogs were sitting on the log?”
It seems like a question of simple arithmetic. Maybe something out of a child’s elementary math book. Three minus one equals two, right? But wait—that one frog only decided to jump into the pond, it didn’t actually take the leap. So there are still three frogs sitting on that log. The decision has been made, but not carried out.
This question was posed to me once in spiritual direction when I was in the midst of a difficult discernment. I had been overthinking and was stuck in a paralysis of analysis: I knew what I needed to do but couldn’t bring myself to do it. In offering that story, my spiritual director was nudging me to recognize the difference between making a decision and carrying a decision out. Our readings today challenge us to consider both the making and the living out of our decisions as believers who seek to walk in God’s wisdom.
The reading from Sirach offers stark contrasts: there is fire and water, life or death, good or evil. We are challenged to make a choice and then to reach out our hand. It’s not enough to choose life, to choose the good; we also need to reach out to enact that choice. We need to physically take action: to make that phone call, have that difficult conversation, set that boundary, offer that apology.
In the Gospel, moving through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus seems to offer a different but complementary challenge about our decisions and how we live them out. Four times we hear “you have heard that it was said to your ancestors…but I say to you.” His listeners are challenged not just to check off the box of following the rules, but to be aware of inner motivations. It’s not simply conforming to the rules about insults, marriage, adultery, and oaths. It’s about having a heart that is fundamentally oriented towards reverencing others in our speech, honoring the gifts of sexuality and marriage, and being trustworthy and honest. This is a call to deeper conversion, a challenge to not just keep the law, but to also have an internal posture of love and respect for others, for ourselves, and for our Creator. A challenge to be a person of integrity.
When read side by side, the scriptures from Sirach and the sermon on the mount challenge us to integrate our hearts and our heads and our bodies, our intellect and will, what we think and what we do.
What about you? Is there a place where you have made a choice in your mind and heart but haven’t carried it out—a place where you are still sitting on the log, looking down in the pond? Or is there a place where you are “doing the right thing” but your heart isn’t in it, where you are going through motions, following the letter but not the spirit of the law to be compassionate, loving, truthful and just? What support do you need in reaching out your hand and choosing life and choosing the good in your world this week?