The Scripture Readings on Sunday (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A) were all about wisdom:
1st Kings 3:5, 7-12
Below are my thoughts and reflections on how the readings encourage us to seek wisdom above all else.
(Before I continue, I can’t help but make the sad observation that the weekend of these readings is the very weekend that the Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia, founded in 537) in Istanbul (Constantinople) will be used as a mosque as it was after the Ottomans took Byzantium.)
God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said that he would give him whatever he would ask. As pretty much everyone knows, young Solomon asks for wisdom. It seems to me that he was given an imparting of wisdom so that he might be inspired to ask for wisdom. The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray, he helps us to know what we should ask for.
Why did Solomon ask for wisdom? So that he might know how to act and serve the people he has been entrusted to rule. He wants to know what God wants him to do, for it is God who made him king to rule over God’s own people. And so, King Solomon, with the disposition of humility, acknowledges his inexperience (“I am a mere youth”) and inability (“not knowing at all how to act”) and makes his request:
“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”
His request for wisdom is at the service of God. He is not asking for his own sake, to gratify disordered desire. He’s asking for wisdom for the common good as well as for his own higher good.
God is pleased to give King Solomon what he wants because he is not asked for a long life for himself, nor riches, nor the life of his enemies. And the Lord is so good and generous that not only will he give Solomon wisdom, he goes so far as to say that “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like up to you, and after you they will come no one to equal you.”
That is wisdom through the roof!
In the 2nd reading from the masterful work of St. Paul called the Letter to the Romans, Paul reminds his audience (the people of Rome he hasn’t met yet), that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Wisdom helps us to see and understand how things can work together for good. Everything we do works together for the good, even our sins (because of the repentance, contrition, and reliance on Divine Mercy they bring about), but especially the willed good that we do in cooperation with God’s grace. It is wisdom that equips us to discern what the right thing to do, at any given moment, is.
With wisdom, Solomon could know what to do with a long life for himself, with riches, and how to handle his enemies. This is why he asks for wisdom. If you have wisdom, everything else falls into place. You’ll know what to do in every circumstance, you will know what to do with every blessing, and you will know how all things might tend to the greatest good possible. The one who has wisdom has everything; he has the principal prerequisite for living life well, fully, and at service of God.
Only one who values and cherishes wisdom can truly say with the Psalmist, that “I love your command more than gold, however fine. For in all your precepts I go forward; every false way I hate.” (Psalm 119:127).
How ought wisdom be desired and transferred? Like the person in the parable of Jesus (Matthew 13) who finds a treasure buried in a field and sells all he has to buy the field. The person who desires wisdom is like the merchant who finds a pearl of great price and sells everything he has in order to buy it. What would I do to possess wisdom?
“Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ”– Philippians 3:8
Ultimately, Jesus Christ is Wisdom Incarnate. He is Logos, the Reason through whom the whole universe was created. Wisdom mightily orders all things from from end to end (Wisdom 8:1). Therefore, if you have Jesus, you have everything. And if you have Jesus, he lives inside you and the more you let his Power work in you the more you will be rightly ordered in yourself and in your actions. We are conformed to his image through Wisdom living in and through us.
True wisdom is Jesus Christ and to desire him above all else, doing whatever it takes to possess him. Everything is refuse apart from him. If we have him, we have everything. Seeking wisdom is carrying the cross, Suffering for the sake of Christ, saying no in order to say yes more deeply. To many, this pursuit is foolishness because Christ crucified is folly to them. But one who has wisdom understands that Jesus is the power and wisdom of God, “for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the righteousness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25.)
There is a famous encounter that St. Thomas Aquinas had that was similar to the one Solomon had. Jesus spoke to him from the crucifix and said, “Thomas, you have written well of me. What would you have in return?” Thomas replied, “I would have nothing other than you, Lord.” That is wisdom.
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”– Proverbs 4:7
If I have Jesus, True Wisdom, in abundance, then I have everything. I will know to do with everything. As for my part, I must seek and hold on to the priceless treasure no matter what, no matter the cost: this involves choosing to reject enticing allurements that pale in comparison, such as the thirst for power which King Solomon succumbed to at one point, becoming a fool who exchanged the glory of God with the worship of shiny trinkets.