If Solomon Could Have Listened to the Words of Jesus
We may need the ‘wisdom of Solomon’ to turn today’s readings into prayer!
It is said, ‘the brighter the light the greater the shadow’. Solomon is about as bright as one can get. Some glitter falls away as one commentator tells us the visit of the Queen of Sheba may have been a business trip, seeking in Solomon a business partner to cash in on the lucrative trade passing through her ports and on to his territory.
The Queen sings Solomon’s praises: happy the servants who stand before you and hear your wisdom; you are a king who carries out judgment and justice.
But in the shadow of Solomon’s brightness are political killings when he takes the throne; an economic program that levied high taxes and forced labor on the northern kingdom that once supported Saul, but not on the people Judah where David was favored; and in his old age, when we gather the wisdom of our life, Solomon gives some of his heart to other gods. “His heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been”.
The Queen of Sheba is ‘breathless’ witnessing all that Solomon is and does. Yet, on Friday we hear the Kingdom has fallen apart. The Northern Kingdom called Israel secedes under Jeroboam. Rehoboam follows Solomon becoming the king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Can we redeem Solomon today? The praise that fills Solomon, blinds his seeing what is inside, hides it from others and leaves it unexamined by himself. From this dark place comes dark things. What if his wisdom leads him to explore the gospel reading?
Nothing that enters us makes us impure… ‘O God, you know me; I am fearfully, wonderfully made. You have made us little less than the angels.’ How brave to turn from our brightness to look into our shadows.
What emerges from within us, what we call impure, maybe an undiscovered good, a shame or buried fear…. ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As you know not how the breath of life fashions the human frame in the mother’s womb, so you know not the work of God which he is accomplishing in the universe. All is vanity, it is chasing the wind’.
If Solomon could see he might say of his embarrassing sins… ‘who is this that obscures God’s divine plans with words of ignorance? I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you, I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.’
These words from the psalms, Isaias, the book of Ecclesiastes and Job might awaken Solomon. Of course, they were not written yet. They expose his shadow and dim the breadth of his wisdom. Maybe he would see Paul’s wisdom, the sacrificial love of Jesus, as summing it all up: ‘without love we are only noisy gongs, clanging symbols.’
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.