In today’s first Mass reading, taken from the first Book of Kings, God appears to Solomon in a dream and says “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon, the reading tells us, humbled by being called to serve as King and knowing how difficult the task will be, asks for “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” The reading goes on to tell us that God granted Solomon’s request, pleased that he asked for this and not for something like riches or long life.
When I read this passage, what comes to mind is the answer given by Salome when given a similar offer by Herod: ask for anything from me and I will give it to you. Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist on the platter.
A good thought experiment is to ask yourself: what would your answer be. If you were given the offer God made Solomon, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you,” what would you ask?
I think the exercise is valuable only if you are willing to answer it honestly. The idea is not: what should I ask for if given the opportunity to ask for anything (i.e, what would make me seem as noble and holy as Solomon, and as far away as possible from Salome), but what would I actually ask.
I say that because when I sat with this passage and asked myself the question, the answer that came out was that I would ask for healing for a friend who suffers from a debilitating illness. My reaction to myself when that came into my heart was: well, shouldn’t I be asking for something like the transformation of everyone’s heart and soul or at least for world peace. But, if I were being totally honest to myself and God I would say that if I were offered in that moment the ability to ask one thing and have it granted, I would ask that my friend be freed from his suffering.
What happens when you answer the question is between you and God, as it was for me in my prayer. That is, it is for you and God together to evaluate the “merit” or wisdom of your request. But I think asking yourself the question is a good way to enter into dialogue with God about your desires.