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Simcha FisherSeptember 09, 2022
Photo from iStock.

A Reflection for Saturday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

“I will show you what someone is like who comes to me,

listens to my words, and acts on them.” (Lk 6:47)

A teenager had a terrible epiphany. She was washing the dishes because it was her turn, aimlessly humming a song she had learned in youth group: “All that I am, all that I do, all that I’ll ever have, I offer now to you.”

And as those words escaped her lips, the dreadful truth dropped: She was going to have to clean out the sink strainer. Normally, she would do a pretty okay job washing most of the dishes, maybe leaving the worst pans to soak indefinitely, and she might even swish out the sink when she was done. But the sink strainer, with its nasty collection of soapy vegetables, stray noodles and miscellaneous gunk, is something you walk away from, because you can.

Unless you’re singing a song about offering up your whole self to God, and you suddenly hear yourself. Then what you do is struggle with your conscience for a moment, decide you’re not a raging hypocrite, gloomily pull the strainer out of the drain and trudge over to the garbage to clean the disgusting thing out, because there is no asterisk after “all that I do,” specifying “does not apply to miscellaneous gunk.”

It may sound like a trivial story, but it’s not. It’s exactly what all of today’s readings are about, and Jesus says it is how you survive a flood.

Life as an adult in the faith can bring dreadful trials, things that push against our very foundations and threaten to undermine us right where we live.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?” Jesus asks his disciples in the Gospel.

“I will show you what someone is like who comes to me,
listens to my words, and acts on them.
That one is like a man building a house,
who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock;
when the flood came, the river burst against that house
but could not shake it because it had been well built.
But the one who listens and does not act
is like a person who built a house on the ground
without a foundation.
When the river burst against it,
it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”

Jesus has a way of escalating quickly, doesn’t he? One minute, he’s chatting with his friends about prayer, and the next he’s warning them about what will happen when the flood comes.

But that is how life works. One minute we’re facing these small, trivial trials of integrity—things like integrity in daily prayer, and realizing that singing a song goes along with dealing with the gunk in the drain—and the next minute we’re dealing with something a lot more flood-like. It happens. Life as an adult in the faith can bring dreadful trials, things that push against our very foundations and threaten to undermine us right where we live.

How do we survive that flood? By making a firm foundation with small acts of fidelity to Jesus. Bit by bit, minor decision by minor decision, faithful choice by faithful choice, small sacrifice by small sacrifice, mixing the words of the Lord into the mortar of our lives. The small sink-side trials are our chance to build up a habit of attending to the words that come out of our own mouths, and checking ourselves to see if they match with how we act. These little challenges make us who we are. They are the constant, necessary work of integrating the heart and the will. But if we constantly excuse ourselves from attending to the little things—a trivial lie here, a small act of hypocrisy there—then we will find ourselves utterly defenseless and without integrity when the flood comes.

And it will come. Jesus is not threatening us; he is simply warning us. But he is also telling us how to be saved.

More: Scripture

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