What do we want most from God? In the first reading for this Sunday King Solomon has an answer that question: he prays for wisdom. What he means by wisdom is placing the highest value on a right relationship with God. Solomon was a powerful king. He could have anything the world has to offer. But he knows what he needs most of all.
Solomon has a checklist of the things he compares to wisdom; none of them comes even close. Scepter and throne cannot compete. Wealth and riches amount to nothing next to wisdom. Gold he says looks like specks of sand when placed next to wisdom. Solomon values wisdom over health and good looks. And finally the brilliance of wisdom surpasses light itself, because the light of wisdom never fades.
But here is the best part—with wisdom as his partner Solomon got all the rest anyway. He seems to be saying that a right relationship with God makes us more attune to all the gifts we enjoy in life. And that is just for starters. If we were to take time to read the rest of this Book of Wisdom we would discover that wisdom leads to the great gift of eternal life. Now we know why wisdom was the one thing Solomon wanted most from God.
Solomon is certainly impressive in Sunday’s first reading. In the gospel for this Sunday we meet someone else who is impressive. As Jesus sets out on a journey—always a clue that we are about to get a big lesson on the journey of faith—a man rushes up to him with urgent question: What must I do to gain eternal life? He seems fairly confident in asking this question. We discover why as the account continues.
Jesus rehearses the Ten Commandments with him. Fidelity to these Ten Commandments is the traditional measure of worthiness before God. When Jesus reaches the end of the list the man announces with confidence that he has observed every one of the commands since he was a boy. What will Jesus say next? Will he declare the man worthy to inherit eternal life? But Jesus knows there is still one obstacle in the man’s life that may interfere with his journey to heaven. His has attachments to the things of this world. If he can set them aside and give them to the poor then he will have the “treasure in heaven” he so desires.
The disciples are astonished. They wonder if anyone could measure up to such a standard. But Jesus will not lower the standard. He continues with the famous line, “It is easier for a camel pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Attachment to the things of this world blinds us to the things of heaven. But putting the things of God first places all the rest in proper perspective. No one who has given up the things of this world will be poor in the age to come.
An image from the second reading may be of help. Hebrews tells us God’s word is the sharpest of swords cutting right through to the innermost part of us. So allow God’s word to cut away at what interferes with the journey of faith. The man in the gospel went away sad. Perhaps he was already thinking about how much it would hurt to let go of his things but also how much it was worth it to gain eternal life.