King Solomon, the son of King David, is one of the most famous characters in the Old Testament. His greatest claim to fame, in addition to building the first Jewish Temple, comes from his response to an extraordinary offer God made to him in a dream: “Ask for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” Solomon, to his everlasting credit, asks a gift that we find surprising. He asks for wisdom, to discern the difference between right and wrong.
This story serves as background for the Book of Wisdom, the Old Testament book devoted to singing the praises of the divine gift of wisdom. We hear Solomon’s poetic description of the precious quality and exquisite beauty of wisdom, which explains why he asked for wisdom above all else.
Wisdom in the Bible doesn’t mean just human intelligence or knowledge. Rather, wisdom is the spiritual insight into the mystery of God and how God is working in the world through his love. Many commentators think that Old Testament Wisdom is a forerunner of our belief in the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Blessed Trinity.
Today’s first reading, from the book of Wisdom, offers a parallel to the incident in the gospel where someone is offered an opportunity similar to Solomon’s choice. But the gospel story doesn’t end with the same happy ending—and gives us something to ponder in our own life.
The second reading is a beautiful description of the power of God’s word. We all stand responsible before God’s word and accountable to the way we receive it. It’s deeply effecting imagery.
—Walter Modrys SJ
This Sunday’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.