04 February 2006

Double-edged Sword

The gifts that we have received from the Lord -- be they spiritual, physical, intellectual, etc., -- are just that, they are gifts. They are ours to cultivate, to use, and to share; they can be used for good works or for less-than-good works. They are, in this sense, double-edged swords.

Today's first reading about the young king Solomon is, perhaps, the quintessential example of this. Most people, when they think of Solomon, are familiar with his wisdom, the understanding heart for which he asked. It is admirable that a young king, when asked what gift of the Lord he would like to have, sought wisdom and understanding. And it is clear that Solomon began to use this gift to serve his people. Solomon's story, unfortunately, has an unhappy ending. His "understanding heart" was not always used to serve the God of Israel; his later years as king were marked with great infidelity as he built temples and shrines to the neighboring gods, worshiped by some of his many wives. Solomon intended to serve Yahweh unreservedly and his request for wisdom and understanding was well-intentioned. He did not, however, persevere is using his gifts for the glory of the God of Israel and the service of His chosen people.

Most of us are not asked in a dream, as was Solomon, which gift we would like to receive from the Lord. We usually discover the gifts we have been given -- often with the help of people and circumstances we encounter at different points in our lives. Our gifts, too, are double-edged swords. We can use them to serve those around us or we can squander them on endeavors which are not pleasing to God. In remembering that our gifts are from the Lord, we are reminded that they are not "ours" to keep; when we ask for the grace use them for the good of those around us, we act with humility. Let us pray for the grace to use wisely the gifts we have been given. Let us pray for the wisdom of Solomon and the fidelity of heart of his father David.

"We must know that there are within us two kinds of gifts, some which are both in us and of us, and others which are in us but not of us. When I say 'of us' I do not mean they do not come from God . . . I mean they seem to be actually of us. Such gifts are health, riches, learning, and the like. Humility prevents us from esteeming ourselves on account of these gifts."
St. Francis de Sales

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