Today’s readings give us a roadmap for navigating through times of great difficulty when it seems like its all just “too much.”
In the First Book of Kings we hear a famous story of Solomon, the third king of Israel, following Saul and David, his father. Confronted with so many needs and concerns around him, he sees in his dreams God, offering him whatever he wants. Solomon could have very easily asked for tangible things to make him happy, or life-long security, safety from severe illness, or for his political enemies to be annihilated. But he saw past those things. He knew none of those things would bring true peace in the hard work of being a ruler of God’s people. Instead, he asks for wisdom and God grants this, along with many other things.
Indeed, Solomon went on to become world-renowned for his wisdom, even until today. And he is a model for us to consider when we ask God in prayer for what we truly need. However, he’s also a cautionary tale. Eventually, Solomon stopped doing the things in his life that he needed to do to keep his focus on God’s wisdom and doing the things God wanted. He got too self-absorbed, and eventually even turned away from God and worshipped idols. Even wise Solomon could get self-absorbed and, in the end, it was a reckoning for him.
Jesus, on the other hand, in the Gospel of Mark, as he always does, points towards the best way. In the midst of the many difficulties and demands on his time and those of the apostles proclaiming the Reign of God to so many people, and responding to their needs for food, for healing, for hope, they got tired. Jesus, who is God’s Wisdom in the flesh, realizes they all need to step away to be refreshed and renewed in spirit. But people’s needs are never fully fulfilled, and those people beat a path to them even before they could fully rest.
Even in that moment, when the needs of he and his disciples for rejuvenation were most important, Jesus found in the well of his relationship with the Father a deeper wisdom – a recognition that compassion and care even in the most trying of times can bring a rejuvenation of spirit even when it seems impossible. When Jesus is moved with pity for the crowds and their needs, his inner wisdom gives him the ability to respond as he naturally would, with care. He knew that there would still be time for rest to come, but at that moment, he gave what he could. By not being exclusive in his care for himself or those closest to him at that moment, Jesus ensured that all those in need – including he and his disciples – could experience an abundance of God’s care. In that moment, Jesus reminded us that sometimes God’s wisdom has a larger view than we can sometimes see. What might our world be like today if every Christian responded in this way to the needs we see before us?
Sometimes, we must take time to step back from the challenges we face and bring them to our prayer so that we can “see” them in God’s larger perspective – through divine wisdom. We do this through regular and active participation in the Eucharist, when Christ always comes to his Church through the assembly, through the Word, and through the Sacrament of the altar. Some do it also by lighting a candle as they sip their morning coffee or tea and reflect on the day to come. Others may pray the Rosary as a calming and centering prayer. There are many ways we can pray for and find God’s wisdom – and it only takes a few minutes each day.
So as we move through these difficult days and their many challenges, perhaps we can cultivate one of these “wisdom habits.” And when God comes to us in the deepest parts of our souls and asks what we most want, we will be able to respond as Jesus before us – with wisdom joined with compassion and a commitment to living our lives and responding to the many needs we encounter with trust in the larger wisdom and vision of God for ourselves and for our whole world.
By cultivating that wisdom which comes from the Spirit, we can readily pray with happiness, the words of today’s psalm: “Lord, teach me your statues and help me to keep your words.”
God give you peace!