I know that the weekday Eucharistic lectionary that we use works its way day by day through one of the Gospels and another book of the Bible. This week we are reading from I Kings and from Mark. Therefore, the odd placing together of today's reading about the Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon's court and Jesus' teaching that it is what comes from our hearts that defiles us is pure accident. But was, I think, a providential accident.
We often have very conflicted attitudes towards worldly success and fame. Even though today's reading from I Kings assures us that Solomon's fame was due to the Name of the Lord, Solomon is seen in that book not only as a great king, but also as having been defiled by the desires of his heart. His desire to have many wives and to use marriage as a way to cement alliances with other kings led him into idolatry. The wealth and power that he acquired became a trap, not only for him, but for his son Rehoboam, who believed that he could do whatever he wanted and lost the support of the elders of Israel.
Jesus, in sharp contrast to Solomon, was, in the world's terms, an abject failure. But worldly success was not his goal. He came to do the will of the Father. As members of the Body of Christ we need to be very cautious about success. Certainly there are times when our success is a good thing, when increased membership in a congregation is a good thing. But success is not always a sign of faithfullness. Often it is quite the opposite. While we need to guard against the temptation to assume that our failures are signs of our faithfulness - a temptation which I have not always resisted - we need to be wary about our successes as well. We are called to be faithful, called to discern what is the Father's will for us, called to discern how God wants us to share in Christ's ministry of reconcilation, to share in the missio Dei. On the Last Day it will be faithfulness and not success or failure that will matter - and not primarily our faithfullness but God's. On the Last Day - and on every day until then - it is Grace that matters.