Reading 1: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
Reading 2: Romans 8:28-30
Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52
In the first reading, in response to God wanting to give him a gift, Solomon asks for “an understanding heart” and not for “a long life,” “riches” or the lives of his enemies. He asks not for a gift that benefits his own self—life, wealth, or safety—but for the ability to guide God’s “vast people” well. God seems surprised, saying “that there has never been anyone like” Solomon. Perhaps too, we are surprised by a ruler who would value other people over self.
Psalm 119 is a praise of God’s commands. Command has a military connotation, of a general leading troops to battle. Hence, the psalm initially can sound like a praise for God the Authority bossing people around. A more attentive reading reveals that the law leads to kindness and compassion. God’s law is “wonderful”, “sheds light,” and gives “understanding to the simple.” In other words, God’s command is wisdom. It is what Solomon asked for: light and understanding so that all people might live well.
The reading from Matthew’s gospel adds to this understanding of wisdom. The reading begins with the willingness to give everything for the kingdom of God. The person “sells all” to buy “a treasure buried in a field,” and the merchant “sells all” to buy “a pearl of great price.” The end of the reading seems to be in tension with the beginning though. Instead of selling the old, the scribe who is “instructed in the kingdom of heaven . . . . brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” This scribe doesn’t get rid of the old but saves it and unites it with the new.
Putting the two parts of this reading together indicates that, while God is worth more than everything, loving God does not mean rejecting everything. Instead, loving God leads to bringing all things—the old and the new—together. The kingdom of God is not a kingdom where one’s good is in competition with the good of another but where one’s good is dependent upon the good of another. Solomon’s wisdom perfects him but also serves all of Israel. Jesus does not say, “Seek first the kingdom of God and abandon everything else.” Rather, Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
As simple as this might sound, it is very difficult to live out. We are asked to love God above all else, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Instead, we find ourselves pursing fame, fortune, and power. We do so not because these are evil but because they are great goods. The desire to belong (fame), the desire for security (fortune), and the desire to do what we think is good and right (power) are all important desires. We need them. We need relationships, security, and self-determination.
The problem is that we often pursue these goods apart from God. We value our group of friends more than anything else, demanding loyalty from those around us regardless of what is true or just. We pursue security more than anything else, closing ourselves from those around us, the neighbor, the stranger, and the enemy. We pursue self-determination more than anything else, acting without regard to our impact on others.
Paul’s letter to the Romans indicates that the path to these goods, the goods we need to live, is to first pursue the wisdom for which Solomon asked, God’s commands, the pearl of great price. Paul doesn’t use these words though. Instead, Paul says that this pursuit is about being conformed to Jesus Christ. Only a Christ like life, one animated by love of God and neighbor, enables fame, fortune, and power to serve wisdom and so serve all people. If we do, Paul reminds us that “all things work for good for those who love God.”