I Kings 3: 5, 7-12; Matt 13: 44-52
The first reading, from First Kings is one that I’m quite familiar. It’s the reading we use each year at the celebration marking the end of the Pinkard Scholars at the seminary. There’s a lot to like about it. Solomon finds himself, like many others in Scripture, in a position he’s not sure he’s capable of fulfilling, despite the call from God. He’s also free to ask for anything to help him become the leader that he’s being called to at this point. It’s almost like asking for a wish, and yet, despite all of it, Solomon asks not for what he wants but what he feels he needs in that moment in this momentous call from God. Solomon asks for an understanding heart.
It appears that even God is taken back by the request, assuming he’d ask for a long life, riches, the life of his enemies. Anything; and yet, he asks for a heart that understands. Even in the request, this prayer of Solomon, shows the depth of his wisdom and understanding, a deep penetrating silence, that is already there and somehow, in the midst of the unknown, God is going to take it and use him as an instrument of that wisdom and understanding.
It’s a great reading to reflect upon in our own lives as to what the treasure, the pearl of great price, in which we’d ask of God at this moment. Not this is not to say that our prayers are futile in some ways, but in my experience, we tend to tell God what we want, as if somehow God is the dispensary of wishes. We know exactly the way things are supposed to be or should be and we want it that way and so that’s what we ask. However, that’s not a treasure, nor a pearl of great price, nor the wisdom that Solomon exemplifies. Rather, it’s so often the God we think we want rather than the God that is trying to reveal in the penetrating silence of our hearts, a deeper mystery, to be able to let go and surrender to the mystery and allow the prayer to fall within.
If there is one thing I have learned up in the mountains of Acadia this week it’s just how much noise we have in our lives. First, with the noise that I create for myself in the busyness of life but also all the noise that surrounds us and in so many ways violates that deep penetrating silence of our hearts, to the point that we no longer know what it is that we need when God asks and gradually get swallowed up in life, unable to breathe, unable to fall into the mystery in which God is inviting each of us.
More often than not, in my experience, people have no idea what they’d really ask God for. Sure, there are the standard prayers of praying for everyone else, for the world, and so on, but to understand and touch the deepest desire of our own heart is a whole other story. One, we often feel unworthy to even say it or even because we already know deep down that if I do ask as Solomon does, it may just happen and something more may be demanded of me, just as it was for him. So I hold back that desire out of fear, unworthiness, as even he thinks because of his age, and I choose to live with a constant restlessness until I can finally rest in that deep penetrating silence in my heart as Solomon does, realizing that the prayer has already begun to bear fruit in the simple act of naming the desire from deep in my heart.
Solomon is one of the key wisdom figures in Scripture and has much to teach us in our own prayer and in the barrage of noise in our own lives that often prevents us, knowingly or unknowingly, from moving to that place of deep penetrating silence in our own hearts that knows our truest desire, maybe an understanding heart as it was for Solomon. His invitation and mirror to all of us is, that despite our own fear, our anxiety, our own feeling of unworthiness, can we step away from the noise of our lives long enough to move to that deeper place, that ocean of silence that often reveals what we truly desire and know that we have nothing to fear all at the same time. In the end, did the disciples really understand what Jesus was trying to convey. Probably not, but somehow it at least spoke to them on that deeper level, stirring something within them and preparing them for that descent in their own lives, in the face of the cross, to that deep, penetrating silence revealing their deepest desires and the heart open to understanding the mystery of God.