Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Josephine Bahita

When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the LORD, his God, as the heart of his father David had been. By adoring Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites, Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not follow himb unreservedly as his father David had done.

The Authors of First Kings suggest Solomon's innumerable wives corrupted him so that "his heart was not entirely with the Lord." We should understand their reason for being in the court was political, not personal; they represented his alliances with their fathers, brothers and uncles, foreign rulers who knew nothing of Israel's God. The holy city Jerusalem was never entirely Jewish; nor was Solomon's regime. 
But the story of Solomon's duplicity invites us to examine our lives and motives. Few of us -- certainly few of my faithful readers -- engage in international influence peddling. We don't have the attention of presidents, congressional representatives or judges. There may be, at best, some distant connections to state representatives. 
But we do make a million decisions every day and many of them reflect very particular values. How we use our money and time and presence sway people around us just as the women in Solomon's court "turned his heart." 
"No man is an island" as the poet wrote, and if I notice how the moods, appearance, expressions and behaviors of others influence me, I should suppose I influence others.
"You are salt of the earth!" Jesus said, meaning that your influence may be invisible but definite. 
One of my several counselors urged me to repeat many times a day, "I exist; I matter; I make sense." I had supposed I was the boy in the bubble​, untouched and making little difference to people around me. My depression was like Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar, isolating and alienating. 
My counselor's advice took effect when I considered its corollary, "You exist; you matter; you make sense." Paying more attention to others than myself, to their moods than my own, I allowed myself to be influenced, cheered, and become more hopeful. 
Today's gospel tells the comical story of Jesus' encounter with a Syrophoenician woman, a "Greek" who should have little influence on Jesus. She should not "matter" to him. If any man in history was ever totally isolated by his identity and destiny, we might suppose, it was Jesus.
His mission was clear! He says in Matthew's version of the same story, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” and, "Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 
But the Holy Spirit would draw people to Jesus in ways that he and his immediate disciples could not imagine. As Saint Luke makes clear in his sequel to the Gospel, gentiles ("Greeks") were turning to Jesus at alarming rates; so much so that the apostles had to call the First Council of Jerusalem and rewrite their policies. 
The Christian vision of power is not oppositional or monolithic. Influence flows in both directions. The Lord engages in human history and draws us to himself as we draw him to us -- with blessings for everyone. "Hallowed be thy name!" is not an idle salute. 
"You exist; you matter; you make sense!" even to God. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.