What Is Your Focus?

1 Kgs 3:5,7-12 • Rom 8:28-30 • Mt 13:44-52

What do we hold as the supreme value in our lives?

Often called the “Day of Parables” because of the number of parables placed together, this is the third week we have read from the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Each of the parables faces specific questions within Matthew’s community. The sower and the seed parable responds to questions about the mixed response to Jesus’ teaching. Some respond to Jesus and stay faithful, but why do some respond and not remain faithful? Why do some never respond to Jesus? The parable of the weeds and the wheat responds to the question of evil within the community and within our lives. How do we deal with “the weeds”? The parables today offer suggestions for an appropriate response to the question of whether desire for the kingdom of God can keep us faithful and help us cope with evil.

At the end of Chapter 13, Matthew positions Jesus as if He were looking straight into our eyes and asking, “Have you understood all this?” Today we must ask, “Have we? Have we understood what Jesus offered when He offered the Kingdom? What values have we chosen through our understanding or have yet to choose?”

We have heard about the wisdom of Solomon, but how much do we really know of him? He is one of four sons born to King David and Bathsheba, one of 19 sons by David and all of David’s royal wives. The Lord commanded that Solomon be David’s successor despite his being the second born son. By right, David’s eldest son, Adonijah, was the expected heir. There was a struggle for succession with Solomon becoming king. (Adonijah continued scheming to take the throne, so eventually Solomon had his brother and his brother’s supporters put to death.)

Under Solomon, the kingdom of Israel became one of the great military and economic superpowers in the ancient Mediterranean Middle East. Solomon’s name is a play on the Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom). 1 Chronicles 22:9 says, “for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days.” This indeed happened.

Solomon engaged in trade all across the region, making treaties to maintain peace and stability. Many treaties were sealed by his marrying daughters of the foreign kings. This further guaranteed peace and influence. Israel prospered mightily, and to show off Israel’s greatness, Solomon began very ambitious building projects, the greatest of which was the first temple in Jerusalem which housed the Ark of the Covenant.

Solomon acted in the line of his father as both a king and a priest of God. But Solomon would falter. To honor his many foreign wives, he began to build altars and temples to his wives’ gods, and Solomon himself began to worship many of these gods. It was in one of these “high places” that God appeared to Solomon in a dream with the offer to give Solomon whatever he wanted. Although not included in today’s passage from 1 Kings, the previous verses make clear that God appeared in Solomon’s dream in one of the sanctuaries of a pagan temple. This speaks loudly of God’s desire to keep Solomon aligned with His will.

What is notable is that what God gave Solomon was actually more than what Solomon asked for. Further, it seems that what God offered Solomon was the knowledge of good and evil, the same thing that Adam and Eve tried to steal in the Garden of Eden. It was a great gift indeed that also carried great responsibility, and for a while Solomon carried that responsibility well. Solomon’s wisdom became the stuff of legend.

Solomon, despite this gift from God, strayed from God. Many things that Solomon began to do became the seeds of Israel’s destruction. Solomon let his wives lead him away from the covenant and the statutes of the Lord. Dissent began to grow in the northern part of the kingdom over issues of Solomon’s administration, the use of forced labor, and unbearable tax rates to pay for all of his building and expansion. God stepped in and told Solomon he would reap what he sowed. God told Solomon that, after his death, there would be civil war and the kingdom would be split, and this came to be.

What do we most desire? Whatever that is, it is what guides us and it becomes our focus. After Jesus’ parables dealing with following His word, He instructed us on what the Kingdom is and what He hopes we will most desire. The focus of Solomon led to destruction. We must keep our focus on the Lord. To do so is true wisdom.

FATHER STEINER, born and reared in Chattanooga, Tenn., is a priest of the Diocese of Nashville. He currently serves as rector of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. Previously, he served in the diocesan high school as teacher, associate principal, and principal. He received his education from St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, the Gregorian University in Rome, and The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C..