18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection by Christina Bax

I'm not sure if it’s the summer heat, or the recent time spent with my four year old niece, but today’s psalm is making me think of the movie Frozen. The psalm’s refrain—“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts”—seems like an appropriate summary for a set of challenging Scripture readings this Sunday. As I began to reflect on hardened hearts, I couldn’t help but recall the opening song of the Disney hit: “Beware the Frozen Heart.” 

[For those who are not Frozen aficionados, let me catch you up to speed: there are two sisters, Anna and Elsa. Elsa has magical powers that can create snow and ice, but she struggles to control them. When her magic goes haywire at her coronation, people are frightened by Elsa, and she runs away. Anna pursues her sister, ends up getting accidentally struck by her sister’s powers, and Anna’s heart begins to physically freeze. Beware the frozen heart!!]

In my theological review of the movie, it is clear to me that while Anna’s heart was the one that was physically hardening/freezing, it was actually her sister, Elsa, that was suffering more from a frozen, or hardened, heart. Harden not your heart… What does a hardened heart look like, metaphorically speaking? The first thing that comes to mind is one that is selfish, that doesn’t think of others or God, that is motivated by fear, power, or fame.

There are definitely a few times in the movie when Elsa’s heart was hardened—or frozen—in this way. For example, when she ran away, she was not thinking about anyone else nor how her powers were affecting them (tragically, she managed to freeze the whole kingdom during her exit). It was also clear throughout the movie that Elsa was acting more often out of fear than out of love. Now, hopefully you and I haven’t frozen over or destroyed whole villages, but I don’t think it’s too hard to point to those moments in our lives when our hearts have been hardened, frozen, or paralyzed from choosing good and loving thoughts and actions.

Thankfully for Anna’s fate, we learn from a group of musical trolls that the secret to melting a frozen heart is an act of true love! Since it is a Disney movie after all, you are led to believe not once, but twice, that it will be the male characters who save the day with their romantic love for Anna. But in an awesome twist of irony, it is Anna herself who provides the true act of love by sacrificing her own life in order to save the life of her sister. Right as the villain is about to strike Elsa with his sword, Anna steps in front—at the exact moment her heart completely freezes—stopping the sword with her frozen body. [Spoiler alert: moments later Anna thaws due to her act of sacrificial love, the villain is captured, and all go on to live happily ever after.] 

Sacrificing one’s own life out of love for another... I think I’ve heard that somewhere before. Oh yes—it’s the event we celebrate when we gather each Sunday for Mass. It is the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection on the cross, an act of true love indeed! How do we melt a frozen/hardened heart? Through acts of true love, in which we imitate Jesus and put on the mind of the Christ. Today’s Scripture reminds us of the constant temptation to become consumed by our earthly riches, desires, and anxieties, which lead us to hardened hearts. And at the same time these Scriptures (and yes, the plot of Frozen) calls us to examine what we need to let go, and where we need to perform acts of love in order to melt our own frozen hearts.