12th February. Wednesday, Week Five
1st Reading: 1 Kings 10:1-10
(The Queen of Sheba comes to find out about Solomon, about his wisdom, riches and good judgment.)
When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, (fame due to the name of the Lord), she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba had observed all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his valets, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her. So she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your accomplishments and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. Not even half had been told me; your wisdom and prosperity far surpass the report that I had heard. Happy are your wives! Happy are these your servants, who continually attend you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king to execute justice and righteousness.” Then she gave the king one hundred twenty talents of gold, a great quantity of spices, and precious stones; never again did spices come in such quantity as that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
Gospel: Mark 7:14-23
(What makes us impure is not what enters from outside but the wickedness in the deep recesses of the heart.)
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Sharing his wisdom
Recalling the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon, our attention is first drawn to the glittering externals of the scene, the admiration she expresses for the magnificence of his court and all his living arrangements, but the author is also at pains to state that all is due to the wisdom with which God had endowed the king. Solomon’s wisdom is set at the centre of all the glitter and wealth and makes us recall his prayer at Gibeon, for an understanding heart to judge the people. It was because Solomon asked for wisdom rather than wealth or long life that God promised him “such riches and glory that among kings there is not your like.” The king’s wisdom lay at the heart of his good fortune, integrating and balancing all the external splendour. Jesus’ words to his disciples develop this traditional idea, that the things of the material world are part of God’s good creation. What we eat or drink is clean and healthy, to be savoured as gifts from the God of life. Evil comes from within the human heart, from whose wicked desires flow those crimes and offenses which corrode and corrupt the world about us.
Respect for our environment is a key aspect of modern spirituality, world-wide. The wisdom guiding us to make the best use of the world also comes from the Lord, with our intellect illumined by his assisting grace. It is a wisdom that includes a humble attitude to care for the earth and the strength to control our selfish desires. A sensitivity towards God, a remembrance in prayer of God’s gracious acts for us in the past, a joy from offering praise and adoration to our Maker, all this belongs to the wisdom by which good judgment is formed.
Without such wisdom, wicked designs can take hold of the heart. Jesus names some of these evil tendencies, almost the reverse of the ten commandments: fornication, theft, murder, greed, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. The wisdom by which we direct our lives must be sincere and fully open to the breath of God’s Holy Spirit. At the base of every good life lies an intuitive, secret wisdom, the fruit of living prayerfully in God’s presence and of responding humbly and obediently to the urging of God’s spirit within us.