I think all of us can identify with the fairly common question that kids ask one another at some time or another, “If a genie popped out of that mythic lamp and told you, you could have one wish granted, what would it be?” Of course, I always responded with, "100 more wishes!" Wouldn’t life be grand if periodically we had some omnipotent genie that could grant our wishes, dreams and desires every now and then?
Perhaps because of the fantastic fantasy of such a dream we might find it odd that Solomon in today’s first reading when the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, God Himself, appeared to him and told him to ask for something and that it would be granted - one might have thought of all sorts of wonderful things that Solomon could have asked for. Yet, he asked for only thing - an understanding heart to distinguish right from wrong.
My sisters and brothers, there is reason why Solomon in tradition is called wise or that we refer to the wisdom of Solomon - for in responding to the Lord’s generous gift, Solomon indeed chose wisely.
To distinguish right from wrong is the daily challenge that we must wrestle with as we strive to live lives of integrity as disciples of the Lord. Matthew records for us the words of the Lord Jesus to his disciples - to us - speaking of the kingdom of heaven. Through comparisons to everyday life, Jesus the master teacher, is urging us to see this new creation that he has ushered in as a treasure buried in a field, or the pearl of great price, or the great catch of fish.
In other words, seeking, living and building God’s reign in our midst must become the overriding passion that gives ultimate focus and meaning to our lives. No wonder that we, like Solomon, should pray frequently for the gift of discernment that we too might have an understanding heart to distinguish right from wrong - what builds up the Reign of God or what can become a barrier and stumbling block for God’s Kingdom to Grow right here in our midst.
These last decades in our Church have brought home all too painfully how some who have been entrusted with the privilege of leadership in our Church have squandered that gift and have been a stumbling block that has inflicted a painful wound on the Body of Christ. Because the gift to choose rightly and virtuously has been refused and all of us have suffered.
To choose wisely, to distinguish right from wrong will forever be the hallmark of personal integrity and holiness as members of the Kingdom. More often than not the wisdom to choose rightly with an understanding heart begins with the seemingly insignificant choices of everyday life. For husbands and wives, the choice to say that kind and loving word rather than to be self-righteously critical or to play those old tapes of an unforgiven wound that we hold onto to as a power play over one’s spouse; for parents to be affirming as they maximize praise for their children and as they teach them the consequences of choosing wisely and unwiselyin their own lives; for employers who treat their employees with fairness and justice respecting the dignity of every person and for employees who bring a moral vision of what is right and wrong to the workplace. For Bishops, Priests, deacons and all involved in the work of the Gospel, that they speak the truth in love and pray for the courage to serve rather than be served as well as the humility to seek forgiveness when we have failed to lead with integrity and virtue.
Solomon indeed chose wisely when he asked the Lord for an understanding heart to distinguish right from wrong. In this age of moral relativism where the good is so often equated with the comfortable and convenient choices we make in life, let us too ask for that Gift from Lord. May it be our path to integrity and holiness of life now and always.