Scripture Readings for Mass
(Liturgical Calendar for Ireland 2018)

07 February. Wednesday of Week 5 Ord. Time

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."


A life guided by wisdom

In the story of the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon our attention is first drawn to the splendour of the scene, but the author puts Solomon's wisdom at the centre of all that glitter and wealth. A little earlier we heard the young king praying at Gibeon, for an understanding heart to judge the people. Because he valued wisdom over wealth or long life, God promised Solomon riches and glory beyond other kings. This wisdom remained at the heart of his good fortune, integrating and balancing all the external splendour.

Jesus' words in the Gospel develop this traditional idea, that external things are part of God's good creation and meant to enhance our life without taking up our whole attention. What we eat or drink is clean and healthy, gifts from the God of life. Evil comes from within the human heart, from which flow those crimes and offenses which corrode and corrupt the world about us. Without wisdom, wicked impulses can take hold of our heart. Jesus names some of these, like the reverse of the Decalogue: theft, fornication, murder, greed, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. The wisdom by which we direct our lives must be sincere open always to the breath of God's Holy Spirit. Central to every good life lies this intuitive, secret wisdom, responding humbly to the movements of God's spirit within us.