Solomon was looking for God’s assistance in making good decisions, be it in terms of a vocation or daily ethical choices. Being young, Solomon realized that his inexperience was a shortcoming. Thus, when God asked Solomon what he wanted (needed), the young Solomon requested an understanding heart. Solomon did not ask for power or prestige; he asked for the gift of discernment.
St. Paul possessed the gift of discernment. He wrote to the Romans “…that all good things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28). Elsewhere he shared the insight that even in his weakness he is strong because of the power and grace of God. As Paul reflected upon his inner life and the complex issues of the early church, he was keenly aware of his limitations and his need for the same wisdom and understanding sought by Solomon.
The Gospel instruction about the nature of the kingdom assumes that discernment is a necessary quality of the Christian life. Be it a found treasure, a search for a pearl or the sorting out of good and bad fish, a wise and understanding heart is a necessity if we are to possess those objects. There are a lot of treasures that claim our attention, many pearls of various sizes and qualities that capture our imagination and all kinds of fish — bullheads, minnows, perch and walleyes — that are good for keeping or for throwing back.
Discernment must be done in a spirit of prayer wherein we ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Second, Jesus is always the standard for Christian discernment. Does the decision I am contemplating fit into the values that Jesus articulated? Third, the authenticity of our discernment can be measured by the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Does the action chosen lead to an increase of love, joy and peace?
Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade, in his classic “Abandonment to Divine Providence,” writes: “The realization that God is active in all that happens at every moment is the deepest knowledge we can have in this life of the things of God.” Solomon and St. Paul had that realization. May we have it as well.
Questions for reflection
1. What do you understand by discernment?
2. What are your principles in making important decisions?
3. Are you desirous of a courageous, discerning heart?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.