A wise and understanding heart

Homily for Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 Romans 8:28-30 Matthew 13:44-46

I think we all might be envious of King Solomon
and the opportunity that was his when the Lord told him,
“Ask for what you want and I’ll give it to you.”

Suppose the Lord came to you in a dream
and said the same thing…

For what would you ask?
What comes first to your mind?
What’s at the top of your “wish list?”

It seems the Lord’s offer had one string attached to it:
he tells Solomon,
“Because you asked for what you did,
and not for some other things,
I will give you what you asked for.”
So there may have been things
for which Solomon might have prayed
but which the Lord would not have granted…

What came to your mind
when I asked what you might ask for?

Do you suppose what you thought of might be a “match”
on the Lord’s list of requests to grant?

We ask for many things in prayer,
and more often than not the things we pray for
are very good things indeed -
but the Lord does not send us all the good things we pray for
even if our request seems what we think to be
just what God would want to grant us.

Solomon asked for a wise and understanding heart:
not so much a “thing” but more a way to discern, to discern:
what’s right from what’s wrong,
what’s true from what’s false,
what’s just from what’s not,
what’s real from what’s fantasy.

That desire to discern with a wise and understanding heart
is the wisdom at work in the two parables in the gospel.

First there’s the image of the treasure hunter
who, upon finding what she’s been looking for,
is willing to let go of everything else she owns
for the joy of having what she has found.

Then there’s the merchant in search of fine pearls.
At last he comes upon the finest pearl he’s ever seen
and surrenders everything he has for it,
believing this one pearl to be more valuable
than anything else he might possibly possess.

How about us?

What treasure are you looking for in your life?

What treasure are you working hard for in your life?

What treasure do you spend your life saving up for?

In what treasure do we invest ourselves,
our time, our resources?
The treasure we work for, whatever it might be:
can it fulfill our hearts' deepest longing?

What “pearl,” would be so valuable to our hearts’ desires
that we might surrender all we have to possess it?
or half of what we have, or a quarter
or even 10% of what we already have – often in abundance?
Or do we hold on to and even hoard temporary treasure
at the expense of treasure that is priceless?

Perhaps these scriptures are less
about getting what I want or wish for
and more about discerning, searching for what God wants for me:
searching for the treasure God has planted in the fields of my life;
for the pearl of great price, for which God hopes
I might surrender much less valuable things in my life.

We can be sure of this:
God desires our happiness
and seeks to heal and reconcile the pain and burdens
that keep us from peace of mind and heart.
But in seeking that happiness
most of us have to do a lot of digging
before finding the buried treasure,
and most of us sort through a lot of costume jewelry
before discovering the pearl of great price.

Is any treasure greater, any pearl more valuable
than the gift of faith which helps me to believe and trust in God
when times are most difficult?

For each of us there is a treasure to be found,
a pearl to be discovered.

What we need is a share of the wisdom of Solomon
to pray, not for the fulfillment of fantasies and wishes
but rather for the treasure, the pearl God has in store for each of us.
It’s in such wise prayer, as St. Paul wrote, that
all things do work together for the good, for those who love God.

We are about to break open the treasure of the Eucharist
and to pour out the Lord’s wisdom by the cupful.

Pray with me that the sacrament of this table,
for which Christ gave away everything he had – for us -
that the sacrament of his sacrifice
will nourish wise and understanding hearts in us all.



  1. The Native American prayer is beautiful! For something so short it says many powerful words.Words I hope I live by.
    I also was lucky enough to hear you preach your homily. Very thought provoking. Definitely something I could relate to. Thank you for the prayer and for the your words you share with us.

  2. It's a thought provoking question: "What would I ask of my Lord"????

    I imagine it would be different for each and every one of us. If we had a loved one, dying and we knew they were too young to die... I imagine our prayer would be for them. Because it wasn't meant to be.

    I imagine, it would be different requests, at different times of our lives.

    I thought about it a lot, and at this time of my life I think I would ask of the Lord to use me. Use me to bring something good into somebody else's life.

    Hopefully, He will. And I may never know that He did, but that is my prayer.

  3. Mary: I think you're really on to something when you say, "at this time of my life I think I would ask of the Lord to use me. Use me to bring something good into somebody else's life."

    I think that's the kind of prayer Solomon offered, too - and the Lord answered his prayer.

    The other things you mentioned - all good and selfless things - are things the Lord may or may not grant, and seldom do we know just why he does or doesn't.

    But the prayer you mention is the open ended one - the one that is open to what the Lord might have in store for you, where your treasure or pearl might be.

    Pray for the other things, too? Of course! But the prayer that opens one's self to the Lord and the mystery of his moving in our hearts and lives - there's the prayer where buried and hidden things may be found - and bring joy.

  4. The hard part of that prayer is you may never "know" the goodness or joy you bring into someone's life. You keep trying and trying ... but you may never know if your prayer was answered, and if someone has been helped by whatever you've tried to do. Therefore, you keep seeking for the "joy".

    I'll keep trying and praying.


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and PRAY before you think!