[COLUMN] An understanding heart

“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

These are King Solomon’s words in today’s First Reading (1 Kings 3:5; 7-12) that relate well with every pastor or leader’s genuine intentions as they navigate the challenges of shepherding a community. Every pastor wishes to lead with understanding and wisdom to bring peace, love, harmony, fairness, growth, and good management and stewardship to his community. For that’s what the Kingdom of God is all about; it must be a place, a community, a   mindset, or an attitude where every person feels appreciated, valued, cared for, and respected.

A pastor or a leader needs two essential matters to fulfill these intentions. First, he must cultivate a life of prayer. His service to God and the people must always be grounded in a discipline of prayer to speak and listen attentively and constantly to God’s will and commands. This way, he could prevent being influenced by worldly and selfish desires. Second, he must have a listening heart. He must learn to listen and dialogue with God’s people to understand and respond to their needs. He must not put on an attitude of superiority, lording over his flock like an arrogant king and conveying that he has all the correct answers. He must learn to collaborate with others, allowing them to share their insights and talents for the community’s growth.

A pastor or a leader’s fundamental mission is to build God’s kingdom on earth—a kingdom of peace, love, and justice. This Sunday’s Gospel reading provides us with great insights into this mission by presenting three parables highlighting the

importance of discernment and prioritizing God’s kingdom.

In the first parable, the merchant recognizes the supreme worth of this particular pearl and willingly sacrifices other treasures to obtain it. Similarly, God calls us to discern the true value of God’s kingdom and make it the center of our lives, families, and society.

In the second parable, a net is thrown into the sea, which gathers all kinds of fish. The net is pulled ashore at the end of the time, and the good fish are separated from the bad. This parable underscores the future judgment and the need for discernment between those who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven and those who do not. It warns that there will be a time of separation, with righteous and unrighteous outcomes. It is why a pastor needs to constantly remind his people in his preaching about preparing ourselves to meet our Lord at the end of our lives on earth and giving an account of how we followed and lived the Gospel.

Finally, the third parable tells us that those who understand and preach Jesus’ teachings are like scribes trained for the Kingdom of Heaven. They can bring forth treasures, both old and new. Jesus reminds us here to dive deep into the wisdom and teachings of the past while remaining open to new insights and revelations. He calls us to share the timeless truths of the Gospel, woven with the vibrant teachings of the present.

These three parables encourage us to recognize the immeasurable value of God’s kingdom, to prioritize it above all else, and to discern between what is true and worthy and what is not—all of which are the essential tasks of a pastor or a leader, giving him more reason why he must foster life of prayer and a listening heart!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.


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