For What Should I Ask God?

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 3:5, 7:12

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."

Romans 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus said to his disciples: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. "Do you understand all these things?" They answered, "Yes." And he replied, "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old."

This week’s first reading is from the first Book of Kings, and it is about Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba, the Israel king who built the great temple of Jerusalem. What is the one thing that we might ask the Lord if we know absolutely that it would not be refused? Solomon has such a choice. “God said, ‘Ask what I shall give you.'” (I King 3:5) This question has enormous power, as it forces one to look deep into oneself. As we attempt to give an honest answer, we will discover who we are at the most fundamental level.

The Bible passage has taken us back to the beginning of Solomon’s reign, when he was an inexperienced young man, who was most likely to be setback by all kinds of challenges and self-doubting. Generations ago, God has promised Abraham that his descendants would be as many as stars of the heaven. It seems to Solomon that time has come. The tribes of Israel have grown to great numbers living in all parts of today’s Holy Land; and Solomon, in his helplessness, cannot even count such numerous populations. How is he to lead all these people? He wants them to love the Lord, and he wants them to be happy and prosperous in the land. He is more burdened with the welfare of his people than his own. He knows there will be trouble among the people, which he must settle. He feels more like a child than the ruler of a great kingdom; how can he instruct those who have more experiences, and tell them what is right or wrong? Only God can help him to make these decisions. That is what Solomon believes, and so he asks: “Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people” (I King 3:9). God is so pleased with his answer that he determines to make Solomon the wisest man ever lives. “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word” (I King 3:11).

Why is God pleased with Solomon’s answer? Since God needs nothing, He is always pleased by what brings us to a deeper life. It is not as though Solomon’s answer gives God something that He needs. In fact, when God is shown to be pleased in scripture, it means that we are entering into a deeper life. The pleasure of God is always connected with human flourishing. So, in asking for wisdom, Solomon is seeking to order his own life in accordance to God’s will, since wisdom is one of God’s principle attributes. St. Thomas Aquinas explains that wisdom is seeing from the height, it is seeing from the perspective of God (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Vol.3, 1a. 13, 5-6). Solomon is, in fact seeking the ground and center of his life in an appropriate place, and the Lord has brought him properly “on track”, ordered his way aright. Once he receives wisdom that allows him to see things from the divine perspective, he knows what to do with good or evil that may come his way no matter what the circumstances are.

That is why when we hear this question for the week, let us dwell deeply on it. What would you ask if the Lord himself stands before you and say, “Ask, and I’ll give anything you want”? Think of these great answers of Solomon. What do you regularly ask from the Lord? Furthermore, as we are amazed by Solomon’s wisdom, we also know that Jesus is greater than Solomon (Luke 11:31). Therefore, the life-changing wisdom available today is superior to that available to Solomon! Let us imitate Solomon in asking for God’s wisdom in Jesus.

Posted: July 30, 2017

Ben Cheng


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