SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2020)
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Psalms 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-130
If we rubbed a small bottle like in the fantasy Aladdin, and a genie popped out encouraging us to wish for whatever we wanted, and the wish would be granted, what is it that we would wish for? So many of us have so many supposed needs that it truly might be difficult to nail down any one thing.
Yet, that is what Solomon is asked to do in our first reading from the Book of Kings. It is no genie, but God who appears to Solomon in a dream, telling him “ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon is young, and perhaps he feels not quite ready to succeed his father David on the throne. He clearly recognizes the challenges and pitfalls of serving the innumerable people that God calls His own, and he no doubt learned at least some things from his father David as he watched him rule God’s chosen ones. (It is also hoped that he learned of things that should never be done, both from David and his mother and one of David’s wives, Bathsheba. We will leave the sordid history of the Jewish kings to the more avid reader). And so Solomon asks, “not for a long life, nor for riches, nor for the death of his enemies,” but rather for “an understanding heart to judge [God’s] people and to distinguish right from wrong.”
If we were given such a precious opportunity by a loving God, would we have answered like Solomon and ask for an “understanding heart”? Think of where you are at this very moment, and think of how influenced your answer might be by that moment. Would financial challenges cause you to ask for extra cash? Would the missing of someone dear cause you to ask for some kind of resuscitation? Would the experience of oppression cause you to ask for the eradication of your enemies? Would the longing for the past cause you to ask for the clock to be turned back? Whatever the present influences on our life might be, if we are honest with ourselves, we wouldn’t be asking for an understanding heart!
Somehow, in the midst of all the intrigue that surrounded Solomon’s ascension to being king, Solomon answered God’s question in a way that provides wisdom for the ages, and therein lies the beauty of the Scriptures. Solomon would make mistakes as king, but he earned a reputation for being one of the wisest kings because God gave him an understanding heart (see 1 Kings 3:16-28). It is such a heart that we should wish for, because such a heart can see in the midst of trials and difficulties that “all things work for good for those who love God,” as Paul says in his letter to the Romans. It is the “heart” that sees through the haze of troubles and wades through the annoyance of difficulties to understand that we have been “predestined” to glory, “predestined to be conformed to the image of [God’s] Son.”
The Psalmist says in today’s Responsorial Psalm “the law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces,” and “I love your commands more than gold.” Our gospel today brings to a close three weeks of parables meant to give us some insight into the “kingdom of heaven” that awaits us, and it truly is meant to be, to us, a “treasure,” and a “pearl without price.” All of Jesus’ teaching when He walked in our midst, is meant to help us to be conformed to Him, and to value His teaching above all else. It is a heart that understands this that will be truly blessed. It is a heart that understands this that will surely one day live with Him in heaven for all eternity.