When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.
Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, "Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my laws that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it from the hand of your son. I will not, however, tear away the entire kingdom; I will give your son one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen."
They are happy who do what is right,
who at all times do what is just.
O Lord, remember me
out of the love you have for your people. (R./)
But instead they mingled with the nations
and learned to act like them.
They worshipped the idols of the nations
and these became a snare to entrap them. (R./)
They even offered their own sons
and their daughters in sacrifice to demons,
till his anger blazed against his people:
he was filled with horror at his chosen ones. (R./)
Jesus he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house but wanted nobody to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, for a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." The he said to her, "For saying that, you may go - the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
King Solomon went from great wisdom to great foolishness. While still a young man, he was invited to ask for anything he wished, and it would be granted. It appears that Solomon could have asked for anything good or morally neutral--even wealth or fame--and God would have given it to him. But Solomon chose to ask for something spiritual--something that would fit him to be leader of his people, namely, wisdom.
It didn't take him long to demonstrate his exceptional wisdom. Soon after this dream, two prostitutes and a little baby were brought before him. The women were disputing which of them was the child's mother. In his wisdom, Solomon decided that, since both of them insisted that the baby was theirs, the solution would be to cut the child in half, and give one half to the first woman and the other half to the second. When the king suggested this verdict, one of the women cried out, "No! Please give the child to her. Don't kill it." The other said, "It shall be neither mine nor yours. Go on and divide it between us." Solomon said, "Give the child to the first woman; she's the real mother." In his wisdom, Solomon knew that the real mother would want her child to live--even if it wasn't with her.
It's too bad that Solomon's wisdom didn't last. It would be mistaken to blame all of his decadence on his many foreign wives (that's "wives" in the plural, because using his royal prerogative he had seven hundred of them). His downfall was not mainly the fault of his wives, even if they played a part in it. It was by his own wrongful choices Solomon went from being an icon of wisdom, the one who wrote wise proverbs and built the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, to a foolish despot who caused the breakup of his nation. He is a classic example of how our choices shape us into the kind of person we become, for good or ill. After hearing his story, we pray for wisdom and temperance in our own life and family. We ask the good Lord to guide our feet in the difficult terrain of today's world; to make good choices and continue faithful to what is right and just.
Women are centre stage in today's readings. Solomon's harem of pagan women led him into apostasy. By contrast, a pagan woman surprises Jesus with her faith and humble perseverance. These stories invite us to think about the interaction of mutual dependence between the sexes, in family as well as in the wider circle of friendship. Our identity as men or women is part of who we are. It helps us to fulfil each other in various ways, and to encourage each other to fulfil our potential. At the beginnin of the Book of Genesis the first woman and man complement one another because both are made in the image of God.
Many of the women praised in the Scriptures can inspire both men and women, just as holy men are an example for all. All the talents that are scattered and fragmented find their union in Jesus, for as Paul says: "among you it is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28-29). Personal union with Jesus in a radical cure for any discord based from gender.
In his response to the Syro-Phoenician woman Jesus at first totally ignores her request. It's hard to explain his harsh reply to her petition, except that he was avoiding the mistake of Solomon, who was led astray by foreign women. His first, gruff response is changed by the woman's perseverance and her obvious love for her child. What he said about not throwing the children's food to the dogs was countered by her mild reply: "Yes, but even the dogs under the table eat the family's leavings." Her apt answer from a humble heart overcomes all his objections, so Jesus heals the woman's daughter - a splendid example of faith and perseverance rewarded.