God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered… “Give your servant… an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong…The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. (1 Kg 3:5,9,10)
Most of the time in our prayer, we are asking things of God. We make petitions for ourselves and intercessions for others. We are the ones who initiate the requests or supplications. We may even feel at times that we are knocking at a closed door behind which is an empty room. We do not consider often enough that God is already present asking us to ask something of him as this Sunday’s first reading indicates.
So what is the spiritual difference? Why should I not just ask God anytime for anything I want? Why should I have to wait on God to ask me to ask him for something? There is a vast disparity between these two approaches. When I initiate the asking without considering that God is always the initiator I forget about the gifts that God has to offer. I choose my petitions from my own gift register, not God’s. However, when I wait upon the Lord to ask me to ask for something, I have begun to trust that God already knows what is good for me, and I will know much better what to ask for.
Remember the instruction of Jesus: God knows how to give good gifts to his children (Lk 11:13). However, these gifts are from God’s shelf and God’s treasury and they all proceed from the Holy Spirit (Lk 11:13). Notice that in our quotation above from Sacred Scripture, God does not ask Solomon to ask him for “anything”. God tells Solomon to ask for “something”, specifically “ask something of me”. The objective of our petitions should always have its source and fulfilment in heaven. In this way our requests, whether they be for the benefit of the body or the spirit, will always correspond with our final destiny.
For this 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our bulletin cover a work by the German painter Ludwig Knaus entitled Solomonic Wisdom (1878). Knaus was a portraiture and genre painter and his images of cheery rustic peasants were quite romantic, ranging from being optimistic to almost frolicking. Like other German Romantics he painted visions of pastoral joy in calming landscapes as in his famous work The Girl in the Meadow (1857).
In our bulletin image we see a young man intently listening and in his turn repeating his instruction. The teacher appears to be a Jewish elder who is eager to offer his wisdom which must be comprehensive for the symbols painted in this piece. On the floor lies a sword and behind the elder a horn indicating his knowledge of both history and the arts. He sits in an ancient structure which is seemingly timeworn yet its vaulted ceiling shows that at a time it was a magnificent structure. Near the light over the boy’s head is a ladder indicating the ascent of knowing. This boy comes seeking knowledge, but not just any knowledge. He desires to learn the wisdom of his past.
We contend that the boy is like the young Solomon who puts prudence before materiality and earthly pleasure. The elder man represents God who has a cache-reserve of many virtues and wisdoms that he wants us to ask of him. These gifts sit in a deep, everlasting chamber ready to be lent out just for the asking.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services