Life & Soul

Word this week

The Judgment of Solomon (1617) by Peter Paul Rubens

The 17th Sunday of the Year
1 Kgs 3:5 & 7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52 (Year A)

The parables of the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price and the dragnet cast into the sea, have one thing in common: They are all an invitation to discernment. Our lives and actions, whether consciously or unconsciously, are driven by the fundamental choices that govern our lives. These parables challenge us to consider these choices, and to measure them against the values of the Gospel.

The fisherman, once the dragnet has been hauled in, must separate the good from the bad. A daily examination of conscience is the moral equivalent of the fisherman’s dragnet. With humility, we look back on the choices made each day. We rejoice in the good and entrust the bad to the mercy of God. True repentance demands more. We pray that future choices might be rooted in God himself.

This was the wisdom for which the young King Solomon prayed. At the beginning of his reign he was conscious of the many distractions that had the power to cloud his judgment. He had inherited the privileges of power and wealth. Ambition and pride were further threats to right judgment. Thus, with a humility rarely attributed to kings, the young Solomon prayed for the wisdom of discernment: “Give your servant a heart to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?”

The narrative concludes with God’s joyful response to Solomon’s prayer: “Since you have asked for discerning judgment for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.”

The whole point of Solomon’s wisdom is that it was not his own; it was a gift of God himself. Let us pray for the discernment that puts God’s will above silver and gold. “Your will is wonderful indeed. The unfolding of your word gives light and teaches the simple.”

Discernment is not the decision of a moment, but the habit of a lifetime. It begins with the fundamental decision to be satisfied with nothing less than the mind and heart of Christ himself, but continues with a lifelong search. Thus the man seeking hidden treasure can never be satisfied until he has possessed that treasure totally. The merchant sacrifices everything for the pearl of great price. Our search begins with the answer to a simple question: where is the heart’s treasure to be found?