How to Ask for the Best Gifts

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."

“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you'” (1 Kg 3:5)—This is what God is saying to us today. He wants to know what we want. What a beautiful offer!

Let’s establish the context of this reading: It’s night-time, so it’s a time of rest and calm, just like it is for us in the Sabbath Summer. Solomon had just consolidated his reign as king of Israel and Judah, and now God wants to know what he desires.

We need to slow ourselves down and start pondering: What do I really desire (because God speaks through our desires)? What do I truly need? If I could have anything this summer, what would it be? The most important thing for me this coming year is ______.

God implants certain desires in us to make us seek what’s good. He’s given, for example, the desire to rest, so that we renew ourselves; emotional desires for friendship and conversation because we’re made for community; and spiritual desires to give our life to Him so that we can find happiness.

The Catechism says that “the desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself” (CCC 27). This is our deepest desire and every desire is meant to lead to this one.

And here’s the main point: God wants to give us the best gifts! St. Ignatius of Loyola once wrote, “We will much sooner tire of receiving his gifts than he of giving them” (Fr. Timothy Gallagher, The Examen, 58. For more information about desires, see pp. 35-38). Do you understand this? God’s desire to give is greater than our ability to receive! St. “Ignatius experiences God as giving: giving immediately, the moment our hearts say ‘yes’ to God’s desire for relationship with us, giving abundantly, endlessly pouring out in gifts a love greater than our hearts can fathom.”

So how do we receive these best gifts? Follow Solomon’s path.

First: Begin with gratitude! “And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today” (1 Kg 3:6). Gratitude recognizes Who God is and what He’s already been doing.

We all know what it’s like to have bad days when everything seems to be going poorly. When we’re in that state of mind, we miss what God’s doing and, believe it or not, we forget about what we deeply desire, what we truly need. Once we’re grateful, however, then our perception of reality changes, and now we’re ready to ask.

Right now, can we start moving our hearts and minds to that for which we’re grateful? This question is simple: Good things come to our minds. But there’s a better question: What should we be grateful for? There are gifts in our lives of which we’re unaware or which we take for granted. And there is good which God has drawn out of suffering!

Second: Consider your situation: Solomon continues, “And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child [Solomon was only 23 years old]; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted” (1 Kg 3:7-8). The Holy Spirit speaks through our situations. For example, when we’re single, one of our greatest needs is to discern our vocation; what is God’s mission for us? But, if we’re parents, three of our greatest needs are wisdom, rest, and perseverance.

Part of knowing our situation is getting in touch with our dissatisfaction. Sometimes what’s deeply bothering us is where God speaks. Is there any deep pain in our lives? Anything that needs healing? There may be a relationship with someone we love that isn’t doing well. Sometimes we’re so frustrated with life that we realize, “There’s got to be more than this!”

When someone is asked what they desire and responds, for instance, “I just want a proper Christmas,” there’s something beneath that which requires listening. Perhaps a good Christmas means a time of peace, a time to be close to family.

As I’ve mentioned before, counselling is a great help to see what’s beneath our dissatisfaction. I’ll include a link to some counsellors on my blog (https://rcav.org/personal-counselling).

In St. Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus met Bartimaeus, who was blind and a beggar, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And Bartimaeus responded according to his situation, “Master, let me receive my sight” (Mk 10:51). Sight is an important gift. Jesus wants us to be well and will heal us in order to bring about a deeper healing, to heal our faith and our relationship with Him. We know that Jesus doesn’t grant every request, because sometimes suffering leads to a greater healing, but Jesus also does many miracles which lead to spiritual healing. After Bartimaeus receives his physical sight, he’s granted a greater spiritual gift: The passage says that he “followed [Jesus] on the way” (10:52), meaning he became a disciple of Jesus.

Third: Ask for the best gifts: Solomon finally says, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this, your great people?” (1 Kg 3:9). He asks for wisdom, one of the greatest gifts. We can and should ask for simple things, like parking spots and nice weather, but always be conscious that there are more important things, such as being patient when we can’t find a parking spot, and being cheerful in bad weather. Parents are typically focused on providing for the financial future of their children, which is wonderful, but there’s something more important, their spiritual future.

Notice how God responds: “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you” (1 Kg 3:10-12). Solomon’s request and God’s response fulfills what Jesus says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33). Solomon puts the interests of the kingdom first, not his own, and so was granted everything else he needed.

I told you once that the Catholic speaker, Mark Hart, a husband and father, prays every morning: “Take away anything or anyone in my life that prevents me from being a saint” (http://thejustmeasure.ca/2020/05/03/three-clues-to-hear-jesus-voice/). That’s a great gift to ask for! Does that scare us? But God won’t hurt us. By asking for a gift like this, it means we’ll have the best life and better friendships!

St. Ignatius, when he guided people through his famous Spiritual Exercises (which are a time of guided retreat), told the retreatants to ask for specific graces. For example, “That I may not be deaf to his call, but ready and diligent to accomplish his most holy will,” or, “For an interior knowledge of our Lord… that I may love him more intensely and follow him more closely” (https://ejournals.bc.edu/index.php/jesuit/article/view/10443).

I mention these examples because Solomon’s request is spiritually mature. We should pray for a cure to COVID-19, or perhaps for a new job or new house, but Solomon shows us that there are more important things. During his time, there were many diseases, plagues and famines. He too could have asked for cures and physical needs, but didn’t. So, in the same way, we ask for spiritual gifts first and then for physical needs.

If you’re willing, could you share with someone else what you’re praying for? In the online chat today, please share what spiritual gift you’re praying for.

Right after this dream, Solomon’s presented with a case to judge between two prostitutes (1 Kg 3:16-28). Both women had recently given birth, but one of the women killed her son when she lay on him at night. So she took the child of the other woman and claimed he was her own while saying the other women had killed her son. Each woman, one of them with the living child, argued that that child was hers in front of King Solomon.

How did he solve this case? He said, “Bring me a sword… Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one [mother], and half to the other.” But the real mother said, “Please, my lord, give her the living boy… do not kill him!” And Solomon said, “She is the mother.”

Solomon showed that he had been granted that for which he asked, wisdom to govern his people and discern between good and evil.

This summer let’s do what he did: 1) Begin with gratitude; 2) Consider your situation; 3) Ask for the best gifts! Doing these three actions will allow God to give us the best gifts!

Source: The JustMeasure:How to Ask for the Best Gifts (http://thejustmeasure.ca/2020/07/26/how-to-ask-for-the-best-gifts/)

Posted: July 26, 2020

Fr. Jusin Huang

 
Fr. Justin grew up in Richmond, BC, the third of three brothers. Though not raised Catholic, he started going to Mass when he was 13. After a powerful experience of God’s love through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he felt called to the Holy Priesthood at the age of 16.


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