Last weekend, Jesus told us that have ears — we ought to hear. This weekend (Matthew 13:44-52) Jesus asks if “we understand all these things.” Understanding …. an art so difficult to achieve.
Most teenagers think that their parents are unable to understand anything. Most parents wonder why their children are unable to understand their well-reasoned, experienced based reason for saying “NO.”
There are lots of things I do not understand. For example: I cannot understand why people throw litter out of their car windows. I cannot understand why people start to smoke when there is so much evidence about the harm of smoking. I cannot understand why people blow the yard trimmings into the street instead of back into their yard!! I cannot understand how “those people” can yell such angry, mean things at the immigrant children on buses and then go to church on the weekend to praise God with those same lips that have yelled “unwelcome.” I cannot understand how Hamas and Israel continue to lob missiles at each other day in and day out, killing people, destroying buildings, and adding layers of anger upon centuries of anger.
But then ….. I am sure there are people who cannot understand how I can sit and watch a 2 1/2 hour baseball game on television. There must be people who are unable to understand why I am employed by our local charter schools after working in Catholic schools for 30+ years. Of course, there are those who cannot understand why I work at all when I am drawing retirement from the Catholic Church and am at the same time eligible for Social Security. Then, there are my two brothers who fail to understand why I am a Democrat. Then, it seems beyond-understanding that I could be raised in Louisiana and not like seafood — crab, fish, crawfish — yuk.
Solomon asks for an understanding heart so that he can determine right from wrong (1 Kings 3:5-12). And then, Jesus asks us if we understand the parables of the buried treasure and the net thrown into the sea.
What does the dictionary say about understanding? First — it means to “grasp the meaning” — like understanding Spanish. It means to “realize the reasonableness” — like understanding his behavior. It means to have technical acquaintance — like understanding Windows 8. It means to be thoroughly familiar with — like understanding the Hispanic experience.
So …. just maybe there is more that I do not understand — than I understand. Just maybe we really understand very little.
Solomon who was charged with leadership of the community — could have had anything. he asked for nothing that would better his life or make it more comfortable. Rather, he asked for an understanding heart — to be able to judge right from wrong. Just maybe, he understood a whole lot — he knew what he needed most. He knew what he was lacking. He knew what would serve him best.
Solomon did not want to judge with opinions or emotions. Solomon wanted to base his decisions on what was just and right in the eyes of God. Solomon sought the heart of God, the source of all wisdom. Solomon did not want to be influenced merely by what others thought or what was popular.
We spend our time and our money on what we think is most important — what we think is valuable. If you really want to see what we treasure, what is important to us, examine where we spend time and money. Do our expenditures of time and money really reflect what we treasure — or, are we wasting time and money on things that are not so important?
For the second week in a row, Jesus tells us that there is a day of reckoning — a day to pay the piper. Last week it was at the end time when the wheat and weeds were separated with the weeds thrown into the fire. This weekend it is the “bad” fish that are thrown away and the good fish that are kept.
To understand — anything or anyone —  there must be some knowledge. We cannot understand — or love — that which we do not know. With so many talking heads on television spouting opinions and tearing at our emotional side — it is really hard to KNOW. It seems to me that the Russians are complicit in shooting down the Malaysian airline– bad and wrong. They need to be held accountable. But, we cannot forget that years ago, we accidentally shot down an Iranian Airliner that we mistook for a military airline. Having an opinion is one thing — becoming an opinion is another thing. To understand, we need knowledge and facts. Example: do people choose to be gay? Are political conservatives really heartless? FACTS … FACTS.
To understand, there must be an  effort to “stand under, to stand with, to walk in the shoes of….”, in others, empathy must be there. I never really went to bed hungry. I always went to school with a good HOT breakfast. I never witnessed the misuse of alcohol by my parents. So, I MIGHT HAVE A SENSE of what a lot of kids go through these days, to really understand would be a stretch. I do my best to empathize, but I have “never really been there.”
 Some things I just may never understand. With effort and hard work, I can get better about understanding Spanish. But, I may never really understand what it is like to experience injustice. I may never really understand the experience of a parent raising a child with serious health issues — and what it requires of them 24/7.
 We must work at not rejecting or labeling as bizarre something we do not understand. Years ago — in simpler days — we discussed our understanding or lack of understanding of “those who spoke in tongues.” Ahhh, to have those simple days again. Today, we are challenged to RESPECT things that are so much deeper and so much more complicated.
 We cannot label as wrong those we do not understand just as we would not want others to castigate us just because they do not understand us or our views.
Sunni and Shia Muslims may never understand the view of the other with regard to who really followed Mohammed in leadership. But, to kill one another to “prove” a point — is beyond my understanding.
Listen — and try to understand — and stay cool. In the end, all will be clear.