At mass this morning, we heard of how a youthful Solomon, on becoming king, asked God for "an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong." (1 Kings 3:9) This request pleased God: "I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you." (1 Kings 3:12)
A chapter later in 1 Kings, we learn more: "And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and largeness of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men, . . . And men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom." (1 Kings 4:29-31,34)
Solomon received the gift of a wise and understanding heart from God, and he became famous for this gift. So it has always amazed me that, in spite of all of his wisdom, we find that, in the end, Solomon's judgment failed him. "Now King Solomon loved many foreign women . . . from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, 'You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods'; Solomon clung to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father." (1 Kings 11:1, 2-4)
Wisdom and understanding are not enough. It is not sufficient just to know right from wrong, it is also necessary to do it, and we must be careful to guard against the influence of the things that might turn us away from God.