For a change of pace, let’s reflect on this Sunday’s first reading which features the wise King Solomon. He isKing of Israel, Son of the great King David. Solomon is especially remembered for his wisdom.
What is wisdom? It is not same as intelligence. The word intelligence (or in Tagalog; katalinuhan) means you are smart. A person with intelligence can get good grades in school, or is able to memorize facts. An intelligent person may know a lot of information.
Wisdom (or karunungan in Tagalog) is different. Wisdom directs one’s knowledge; it guides one’s intelligence. Wisdom helps us know what to do with the information we have acquired. Wisdom enables a person to understand what is best for oneself and for other people. It has to do with making good decisions.
In today’s first reading, God speaks to Solomon in a dream. He tells him to ask for whatever he wants. It almost sounds like a fairy tale. The genie appears and gives the person whatever he wants. Isn’t that sometimes the way we approach God? We act like God is a genie who can grant our every request.
What does Solomon ask for? Of all the things he could ask for, he requests an understanding heart. At the time of Solomon, the heart was thought to be the organ of the human body that gave the person the ability to make choices. Today we sometimes associate the heart with feelings alone. In addition to feelings, at Solomon’s time, the heart included the functions of the will and judgment as well.
So, as king, Solomon wants God to give him the ability to make good decisions. He wants to be a good king and be able to fulfil his responsibilities. He knows he needs God’s help to do that. He needs the wisdom that God can give. He needs an understanding heart
Solomon could have asked for anything: wealth, punishment on his enemies or other things that would be personally satisfying. But Solomon asks for an understanding heart, or what we might call a listening heart.
The ability to listen well is a tremendous gift. Solomon is asking for something very important. Many people find it hard to listen. Sometimes children do not listen to their parents; or parents do not listen to the children. Sometimes spouses do not listen to one another. Sometimes the same is true in religious communities. People do not listen to what their neighbours or co-workers are saying. Sometimes even friends do not listen to each other.
Why do people find it so hard to listen? Why is it hard to develop a listening heart? An understanding heart?
We need to learn from Solomon not to think of ourselves first. When he prays, he is not selfish. His first concern is other people. That’s why he is considered wise. People who think first about themselves find it hard to listen to others. Instead of trying to learn from others, they are just waiting for their chance to say what they think. While someone else is speaking, they have already made up their minds… their minds are closed.
There are many lessons we can draw from Solomon’s dream in today’s first reading:
First, our prayer should also be unselfish. We ask the Lord for the things we need to fulfil our responsibilities. We ask for the gift of wisdom to make good decisions. We do not simply pray for what we think will make us happy.
Second, we each need an understanding heart, a listening heart. We ask the Lord for the ability to listen well. And then, believing God will give us that grace, we strive to put it into practice. We practice listening to others with an open mind and open heart. We keep in mind that famous prayer which says: “Lord, grant that I may not seek so much to be understood but to understand.”
Thirdly, we need to ask God for the gift of wisdom. It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can use that gift of wisdom to make good decisions so that we can fulfil our responsibilities. Then we can choose wisely how we will deal with our problems. We think about the needs of others before our own. We make responsible choices in each area of our lives (family, school, work, etc.)
Solomon’s wisdom made him a great king.
May God’s wisdom that comes from an understanding heart, make us great disciples of the Lord.
by: Fr. Ron Bagley, CJM