The first reading for this Sunday has Solomon being granted a gift from the Lord that all of us could desire: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon ponders the optional answers to this question and responds, “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart, to judge your people and distinguish right from wrong.” Solomon is commended by God for not asking for riches, long life or the lives of his enemies and is granted his request. Solomon will be remembered then for his great wisdom during his reign. What would you ask for?
The challenge of the other gifts is that they can be misused without understanding of heart. Riches and pleasures are enjoyable things, but without a gratitude to God, they can distort our thinking, leading us sometimes to believe that we can have fulfillment apart from God. A long life lived with wrong choices can yield a long life of sorrow or unfulfillment if it is not directed toward God. And to ask for the life of one’s enemies does nothing to heal the anger or hatred within and only yields sorrow upon repentance.
“Understanding of heart” or wisdom is indeed a great gift. It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit sealed within us at confirmation and that can be called upon at any time to discern life’s events and choices in conformity with the path to heaven.
This gift is available to all and is a manifestation of the kingdom of God present in our lives. It is the “pearl of great price” and the “treasure hidden in the field.” God wishes to hold it back from no one, so he casts the large net gathering fish of every size as today’s Gospel proclaims. But what if we have missed the gift? What if we are suffering from past poor choices that were not made with true understanding of heart? St. Paul offers words of consolation and hope to us.
St. Paul writes in today’s second reading that, “all things work for good for those who love God.” This is powerful stuff. This means that when we turn back to God, nothing is lost with him. All of it can be used in the master plan, though the “good” is left to God’s design. We know that the “good” in God’s design is always for our own good and that of others, though the “good” from our present vantage point can be hard to see, so we come to God bringing, as the Gospel states, “both the new and the old” and leaving it before him. This can be very difficult. He is then like a master painter who observes what is there and then creates a living portrait of both the new and the old. It may not be our present ideal or vision, but in faith we trust that one day, God will show us everything from his view.
Questions For Reflection
1. Where in my life could I use greater understanding of heart?
2. Where is it hard to entrust things to God?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish, Green Bay.