July 26, 2020: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner
The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. 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?” The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this—not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right—I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.” (I Kings 3:5,7-12)
Wish fulfillment fables fascinate.
Whether it’s Aladdin’s Genie in the lamp or Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, we love a tale which centers around the protagonist’s encounter with someone who could transform their desires into reality. In the 1st reading this weekend, we hear of the story of Solomon’s dream. On the cusp of stepping into the kingly shoes of his father David, Solomon prepares to take on this regal, if daunting task. The Lord appears to Solomon in a dream. God asks him to name any desire and He will make it so. In a moment a humble candor, Solomon expresses his anxiety and perceived lack of ability to take up the royal mantle. He asks simply for “an understanding heart” so that he might be a good king and govern wisely. God is pleased with this desire towards service and tells Solomon that he will not only be given the wisdom of an understanding heart, but the blessings of health, wealth and prestige as well. God delivers on his promise. Solomon’s name and fame spread beyond the borders of Israel and even today Solomon’s name is associated with wisdom and good judgment.
When I reflect on this story, I sometimes am a bit jealous of Solomon. It’s not yet happened to me, but I’d love to have a dream in which God promises me my heart’s desire. Who wouldn’t want God to make our dreams come true. But upon further reflection, I wonder what I would ask of God. Would I ask for long life, to be the most notable preacher, the most insightful confessor, or astute Pastor? The question is not as easy to answer as one might suppose. What would you ask you for? If God asked you in this moment for your heart’s desire, what would you request? It’s a compelling, if difficult question to ponder. The familiar adage “be careful for what you wish for, you might get it” comes to mind.
Although we might desire to dream like Solomon, if we continue the story of Solomon, we discover that his magnificent dream is dimmed in the face of reality. At the end of his life, Solomon becomes enmeshed with the worldly blessings which flow from his achievements. He forgets his relationship with God, he abandons the covenant. Though he oversaw the construction of the Great Temple, he neglects worship and begins to sacrifice to idols. For all his wisdom, Solomon’s dream disappears in the face of his fame and success. When Solomon breaks from God’s covenant, the kingdom that was united in his wise judgment is soon broken. Once Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, succeeds to the throne, the kingdom is divided decisively, never to be united to this day.
The rise and fall of Solomon sheds light into his original dream. It becomes clear that Solomon did not receive wisdom from God as sort of magic trick or fantastic superpower. Rather, it was because Solomon turned to God to ask for what he needed to be faithful to his responsibilities that he received the Wisdom he needed to rule. Solomon’s dream is not a privileged moment. God is always asking for our heart’s desire. The secret to answering this question is to know that God has a dream for us. Even before we are aware of our own desires, God desires to have His will for our life become a reality. When we turn to God and ask that His dreams become our reality, we too can share in the abundance of his blessing.
Solomon’s dream is not merely a wish fulfillment fable, but a story which reveals that God’s greatest desire for you is that you share in His dream. God creates each one of us for a special reason. You have a unique purpose. His dream is for us is to find and live in this purpose. If we take time to listen to God in prayer, we will hear Him ask us exactly what He asked Solomon. When our heart’s desire is to receive what we need in to be faithful to our purpose, we find blessings beyond our dreams.