July 17, 2020
Something amazing happens in our first reading (1 Kings 3:5-12++)! God said to Solomon, “Ask what I should give you.” He first acknowledges God’s steadfast love for his father David and his own weaknesses and limitations. Only then does Solomon reply to the ask: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” We are told that it pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this and had not asked for something for himself. So much so that God said, “I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.”
What are we to ask God to help us carry out the vocation God has given us or the task at hand? More concretely, what would we ask, here and now, if God were to say to us, “Make your desires, your wishes known to me; I shall grant them.” Perhaps we would be at a loss for words. Perhaps, unlike Solomon, we would ask for something for ourselves, i.e., health, riches, long life, the head of our enemies on a silver platter? Or would we, like Solomon, ask for a wise and discerning mind to be able to know God’s will and then the courage to carry it out? Would we ask God to help us know right from wrong so that our righteousness could exceed those of the scribes and the Pharisees?
This brings us to the three parables in our Gospel (Matthew 13:44-52). The first: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Do we have the courage and decisiveness to act for the kingdom of God? If not do we ask God for those graces?
The second: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Do we have the wisdom to discern “a pearl of great value” from the things that are passing and death-dealing? If not do we ask God for those graces?
The third: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind.” Then the good and the bad were separated out. Why do we think that we have the wisdom and insight to judge other people into good or bad categories? Are we wiser and more discerning than Solomon? That is not possible since God said that no one after him would be more wise and discerning? As opposed to judging others out we not constantly implore God for the wisdom and discerning heart to know right from wrong for ourselves and to have the courage to follow the discernment?
The question Jesus asks at the end of Gospel today is interesting, “Have you understood all this?” His response to their yes is even more interesting, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” So often we try to put square pegs into round holes. We keep doing the same things in the hope that we get a different outcome. Jesus tells us that living as a citizen of the Kingdom of God is not about simply longing for and rehashing the past. Nor is it simply about visioning and constant innovation. In medio stat virtus, i.e., virtue lies in the middle but in order to journey in this middle ground we need wisdom from God and we need God to shape our hearts of stone into discerning hearts!