My ears always perk up when I hear someone praying as we do in the Scriptures today. If we believe that prayer is our way of communicating with God, listening to someone else as they pray might be considered a sort of spiritual eavesdropping. Undoubtedly, Solomon meant for others to hear his prayer. He stood before the altar of God in the presence of the people so this was not the intimate kind of prayer that goes on in the quiet moments of prayer. At the same time, the prayer does reveal something about Solomon’s character.
First of all, Solomon begins by praising God, and from the words of praise we learn that Solomon knew who God was and who he was. Even though he was the king, he knew that this was the merciful God of Sinai. He further states that God could not possibly be contained in a Temple of human making. God is simply too immense to be so constrained.
Solomon then moves into petition, but rather than ask for something specific for himself, he asks that God would continue to be mindful of the people who come before the altar in this holy place. He models his own generosity in this way, being more concerned about the prayers of the people than for his own needs.
Finally, he recognizes his need for God’s mercy. He asks for God’s pardon.
We know that the Temple became the center of Jewish life. It was the institution that kept Jewish society together. Unfortunately, we also know that this place was abused by those who worshipped in it. In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks of how the Jewish officials had tried to “contain” God by their interpretation of the commandments. This is exactly the opposite of Solomon’s prayer, for he realized that the Temple was not meant to contain God. It was built to facilitate the encounter of God.
We are privileged to be able to gather around the table of the Lord in this beautiful chapel. At the same time we would do well to be mindful of how we can meet God in the world and in God’s people. God cannot be contained and must be proclaimed everywhere.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator