Had I not studied Scripture, I would be jealous of the people who experienced the words and events our sacred authors described. What an advantage they had! They actually heard and saw the things we only read about centuries later.

But once we understand what went into the creation of our biblical writings, we also understand that the people we find in those books were exactly the same as you and I. They also had to have faith in order to experience God working in their lives. If that weren't so, then one of the greatest of biblical persons, Solomon, wouldn't have asked Yahweh for an "understanding heart" (I Kings 3: 5, 7-12).

Ancient Semitic people believed we think with our hearts and felt with our kidneys. The latter is the source of our emotions; the former, the source of our thoughts and insights. So when Solomon says, "Give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong," he's simply requesting a mind capable of seeing what others overlook. Without the insights such a mind produces, he'd be a lousy king.


It's important to note that nothing passes before Solomon's eyes or enters his ears that doesn't pass before everyone else's eyes or enter everyone else's ears. The different between Solomon and all those others revolves around how each interprets the "raw material" that's part of everyone's life. That's why Yahweh's so eager to grant his request.

That's also why Paul can assure Rome's Christian community, "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8: 28-30). Such knowledge is an act of faith.

People of faith have a knack for connecting the dots that make up their lives in such a way that they can see God's loving hand in everything and everyone around them. The dots are similar for everyone. But because of faith, one person is able to make sense of them; while, without faith, another thinks they're nonsense.

The faithful believe they're "predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son." They even have the courage to believe they're "called, justified and glorified."

Paul is simply passing on the message of the historical Jesus. He believed and taught that the ability to perceive God working in one's life was essential for those who wanted to follow Him. Jesus constantly reminded His disciples that "God's reign" (or the "reign of heaven") was so close that, with the proper frame of mind, people could reach out and actually touch it.

Seeking and finding

Listen carefully to what He says about this reign of God in Sunday's Gospel (Mt 12: 44-52). It's "like a treasure buried in a field which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, it's like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds one of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."

Each story zeroes in on the same point: a valuable object is "out there somewhere;" a person looking for it discovers it, then sacrifices everything to possess it.

Jesus teaches that only those who develop a searching mind and are willing to give up everything for a treasure no one else even notices can be "other Christs." His followers live in the same world everyone else inhabits, but they live differently from everyone else.

I always remind my Scripture 101 students that the Bible isn't a science or history book. It's a book of faith, written by people of faith for people of faith. Only the faithful are able to understand what the authors are trying to convey, because only the faithful share the authors' outlook on life.