In this week’s Spiritual Reflection, Pope Francis tells us, “Everything is done by grace, everything! We need only have the willingness to receive it, not to resist grace: grace does everything, but it takes ‘my’ responsibility, ‘my’ willingness.” This “willingness” is on display in the reactions of the man who finds a treasure and the merchant in search of fine pearls. They did not put the treasures there, but their willingness to respond when they found them is part of what made them rich. Without some inquisitiveness and longing, without curiosity and a sense that there is more in store for us, we would never go on a journey of discovery; we would never be inclined to search for a treasure or a pearl of great price. We can be grateful that God has planted in our hearts the longing which moves us to discover him and grow in holiness.

Today’s readings teach us the importance of properly ordering our priorities. This means, more than anything else, treasuring God above all things. In our “willingness” to search, we collect a variety of things in the “dragnet” of our consciousness throughout the day. Not all of it is precious! We need to know how to sort them out properly, keeping what is worthwhile and throwing the rest away.

The example in the first reading is King Solomon. Shortly after he ascends to the throne, succeeding his father David, the Lord promises to give him whatever he asks for. This promise is also a test, for by his answer Solomon will reveal what is most important to him. The young king begins his answer with an acknowledgment that God has given him the responsibility to serve as king of the Lord’s chosen people. At the same time, he honestly admits his utter poverty, his inability to do what the Lord asks: “I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.” In taking these two steps – accepting the Lord’s will for him and humbly admitting what he does not know – Solomon already has the beginnings of wisdom. He realizes that he does not need an exterior solution but an interior gift: “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” We too can advance along our journey of discovery if we are humble enough to see what we are lacking, and willing enough to ask God for his grace.

The Lord explains why he is pleased with Solomon’s request: because the king has not chosen things of lesser value, such as a long life, riches, or the defeat of his enemies. He agrees to give Solomon great wisdom and understanding. This is the gift the king asked for, and the gift the Lord wants to give. The wisdom of Solomon in the Bible is indeed legendary.

What are our requests to God, who desires to give us all good things? It is not wrong for us to ask for what we need. Jesus himself instructs us to ask for “our daily bread.” But if we are wise, with the awareness of our inadequacy, we make the will of God the foundation of all our requests. Some of our best prayers are like this, “Lord, thank you for my marriage and my children, but I don’t know how to be a good spouse, and I don’t know how to be a good parent. Grant me an understanding heart! Or, “Lord, you have placed this responsibility on my shoulders, but I am weak. Help me to do only your will in all things.”

The second reading reminds us that we are right to entrust ourselves and all our plans to the Lord, because he is actively at work, making “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” We can be at peace as we attend to the tasks before us, trusting that he is taking care of the rest. We believe in faith that God has a bigger and better plan, and that it is not “all about us.”

The wisdom in this reading may remind us of the famous image of the Lord as the Master Weaver working on a beautiful tapestry that includes the whole world and everyone in it. The threads are of many colors; some are thick and rough, some are fine and smooth. He works them together to create a beautiful whole. The tapestry’s front side, the beautiful work of art, is facing up, visible from the perspective of Heaven. What we see here on earth is the back side, the tangled mess of knots and threads. When the world looks like it is out of control, and we look up to Heaven for answers and see just more knots, we can recall – if we have a wise and understanding heart – that God knows what he is doing, and that it is beautiful from his perspective.

Our highest priority, then, must always be to live according to God’s plan, not our own, to work for his Kingdom, not our own. Today’s Gospel shows us that the Kingdom of God is so precious that, by comparison, all our accomplishments and even our most prized possessions are worthless. To give up everything else for the Kingdom is true wisdom. This is obvious to one who has found the “treasure,” but to others, our behavior may look strange and foolish. Why would anyone give up so much?

We can imagine what the actions of the man who found the treasure looked like to his neighbors. He is behaving oddly! He is smiling and whistling, and at the same time, is not concerned about the possessions he has worked so hard to accumulate. He is selling everything, as if it doesn’t matter! Has he gone mad? Is he in love? In a sense, yes! When we find the Lord and respond to his love, we change. It is an interior change, but it is so profound that it affects everything; we are different on the outside as well.

If anyone notices that we have found the Kingdom of God and that our priorities have changed, it gives us an opportunity to share the treasure with them. This treasure is not diminished by our sharing it; it is increased. Others may or may not accept whatever explanation we can give for sacrificing everything else for the sake of the treasure. However, if they see our joy, and if they see our evident love of others, the Lord can use this to draw them to himself. How will people know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus? How will they find and be attracted to the treasure of the Kingdom? He tells us: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

When and why do I resist God’s grace? What are the effects in my spiritual life when I do resist God’s grace and when I accept it? How do I treasure the gift of wisdom in my life?

Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 19, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.