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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Bishop Barron - What Do You Want God to Do for You?

Bishop Barron - What Do You Want God to Do for You?

Bishop Barron - What Do You Want God to Do for You?

Peace be with you. Friends, this week, I want to look at our first reading, which is from the first book of Kings, and it has to do with Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, the great Israelite King who built the temple, who eventually became a problematic figure in Israelite history. But our passage for this week puts us right at the beginning of Solomon's kingly career. So he's a young man. He's untried, inexperienced, beset by all kinds of self-doubt, most likely, as anyone would be beginning a position like that. The Lord appears to Solomon in a dream. "Ask something of me and I will give it to you".

Now, can I suggest, everybody, that's an extraordinary moment, and it's actually a lovely spiritual exercise to imagine the Lord asking you the same question. So if the Lord appeared to you right now and said, "I'll do it; I'll give you whatever you want," what would you say? How you answer that question actually will tell you a lot about the state of your soul. It's interesting how often this sort of thing happens in the Scriptures. Think of the moment when Elijah is passing the mantle to Elisha. Elijah says to him, "I'll give you whatever you want," and Elisha asks for a double share of his master's spirit. Think of the disciples of John who follow after Jesus. The Lord turns on them and asks, "What do you seek"? That's a great question. Imagine that too. The Lord Jesus turning on you right now and saying, "What do you want? What are you looking for"? Their marvelous answer (sermon for another time) is, "Lord, where do you stay"? Then he says, "Come and see".

And they stayed with him. Or Jesus asked the blind Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you"? Again, you're blind Bartimaeus. You hear the Lord right now asking you that question: "What do you want me to do for you"? What would you say? Bartimaeus wonderfully answers, "Master, I want to see," with all the overtones and undertones of that in the biblical context. And, of course, most of you who follow me know that a key moment in the tradition, when my spiritual hero St. Thomas Aquinas is praying before a crucifix, and the voice comes: "Thomas, you've written well of me. What would you have as a reward"? There it is again. If the Lord said that to you, "What would you have? What do you want me to do for you"? And Thomas' answer I've taken as my Episcopal motto: "Non nise te Domine". "I'll have nothing except you, Lord".

By the way, that's the right answer, if you're ever asked that question. Now, I bring all this up because Solomon maybe is the first great example of this. Let's attend then with some care to Solomon's answer. What do you want? He says, "Give your servant…an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong". Give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. God is so pleased with this answer that he promises that he will give it to Solomon. He'll make him the wisest man who has ever lived. Listen: "Because you have asked for this, not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies…. I do as you requested". Keep in mind, everybody, this: whenever God is pleased with us in the Scriptures, don't see that in a mythological way as though now God is getting something he really needs out of us. God needs nothing. We have nothing that God requires. What pleases God is always what brings us to deeper life. Make that an interpretive key whenever you read the Scriptures. What pleases God is what makes us more fully alive.

He's happy with Solomon's answer because that's the answer that's going to make Solomon more spiritually alive. That's why he's pleased. So what's he asking for precisely when he asks for this wise heart? He's asking to see the whole of his life and work from the standpoint of God. Thomas Aquinas says wisdom is the view from the hilltop. That means from the standpoint of the highest cause. So I'm not looking at my life just from my perspective, or the perspective of people around me, or what the culture expects. Those are all little tiny foothills. When I go up to the top of the highest mountain and I look out, I'm now seeing the world from the perspective of God. That's what wisdom means. And Solomon asks correctly for that.

Now, see why is it so important? Because it brings Solomon's whole life online and enables him thereby to judge the whole of his life correctly. With wisdom in his mind and heart, he'll be able to gauge things aright. He'll be able to choose things aright. Listen now, he'll know what to do with whatever comes his way. Let's say he becomes wealthy, and indeed Solomon was very wealthy. With wisdom, he'll know what to do with that wealth. Let's say he becomes powerful, and indeed Solomon was very powerful. With wisdom, he'll know what to do with that power. He won't abuse it. He won't use it for his own ends. He won't twist it for his own purposes. He'll know how to use it aright. Suppose he conquers his enemies, and for a time he did. He'll know what to do with that victory. He'll know what not to do with that victory. How many kings go off the beam using their conquests, using their power precisely for nefarious and selfish ends? The man of wisdom knows what to do with the victory when it comes to him. Suppose he's given length of life.

Okay; with wisdom, he'll know what to do with those years that he's been given. He won't squander them. He won't use them for his own destruction; he'll use them for his own enhancement. You see my point. When you've got the view from the hilltop, then you've got a control, a spiritual control, over the whole of your life. Now, turn it around. Suppose Solomon had said…and boy, the temptation must've been great for this young man. The Lord himself saying, "Just ask me, I'll give it to you". "Oh, I tell you, what I want: I want to be the richest person ever". Okay, and let's say God gives him that; he makes him the richest person ever. What will inevitably happen if you're given that kind of wealth without wisdom? You will not know what to do with it, and in fact, that wealth will probably destroy you. Look even at the old mythic story of King Midas. It's making that point, isn't it?

"Oh, everything I touch to turn to gold, wouldn't that just be great? I couldn't imagine a better fate. Everything I touch turns to gold". And, of course, that includes the very people that he loves the most. His wealth turned on him and destroyed him because he had wealth but not wisdom. Suppose young Solomon had said, "Make me the most powerful person ever. Give me victory over all my enemies". Okay, so God said, "I'll do it". What would he do with that power? That power would turn on him. It would devour him. Pleasure, the same thing. "Oh Lord, give me all the pleasures in the world". Okay, God does it. You'll have all the sensual pleasure you can want. And Solomon had plenty of that, by the way. Without wisdom, it'll turn on you. It'll destroy you in short order. Don't we see this play out all the time in our popular culture? How many young athletes and young actors and pop stars are given all these things? Wealth? Yeah, they're richer than Midas. Power? They might have extraordinary cultural influence. Pleasure? All the pleasure they could possibly want.

But what happens to these young people? More often than not, those very qualities they so coveted became the source of their own destruction because they received them without wisdom. So I want you to put yourself now in this position. You're Solomon. The Lord is standing right in front of you. What do you want? What do you seek? What's your answer? And I'm saying this too myself, everybody; I'm preaching to myself. If I'm really spiritually honest... gosh, I can feel it even now, I can feel the temptation. "Oh, if the Lord asked, I'd ask for one of these worldly goods". In some ways that's the whole story of humanity, isn't it? I mean, read the history of kings and queens and emperors and great cultural figures. More often than not, as you read their biographies, you'll come to a point very much like this when you discover, "Oh, that's what that person wanted". Right now, I'm going through a biography of Napoleon. Napoleon is an ambiguous figure. But it's very clear early on what Napoleon wanted was power.

Now, he did have wealth and pleasure and other things too. But what he wanted above all power. What did it do to him? It eventually destroyed him. It consumed him because he had power without wisdom. Now, go up and down the centuries and see story after story. Great figures undone because, in a way, they asked for the wrong thing. So there you are now, you're before the Lord. You're Thomas Aquinas and you hear coming from the cross that question: What do you want? You're the disciples of John the Baptist; Jesus turns around and looks at you. What do you seek? You're blind Bartimaeus, and we're all blind, aren't we, in our sin? And we hear the voice of Jesus asking, "What do you want me to do for you"? You know the right answer. You ask for wisdom. You ask to participate in the perspective of God.

In some ways, those stories of the genie in the bottle come to mind, don't they? So the genie comes out of the bottle. "You've got three wishes". What would you ask for? Can I suggest, and gosh, I know it, I can feel it even now, the temptation to ask for, "I want the biggest house. I want to go on the best vacations. I want to be famous". No, no. You know what you need to ask for? You've got three wishes? Ask for faith, hope, and love. Because with those three virtues that allow you to participate in the very being of God, you will know what to do with whatever happens in your life. And without them, you will not know what to do, and those very things that you sought will turn on you. I think, everybody, take that to the bank spiritually. It's one of the most basic teachings of the Bible. What do you want? What do you seek? I'll give you whatever you ask. What would you ask for? And God bless you.
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