Holy Men Utilize the Gifts of the Holy Spirit — #3: Understanding

The Gift of Understanding gives us a deep insight into revealed truths and divine mysteries.  It helps us to see the truths of faith under so full a light that, though we do not fully comprehend their nature, we are confirmed in our belief through this penetration into these truths and mysteries.  [Notice that its scope is not limited to created things, as was the Gift of Knowledge.]

Fr Peter John Cameron OP explains it this way:

…because we have been created for and ordained to supernatural happiness, we remain ever restless and unfulfilled unless we reach beyond ourselves to certain deeper and ineffable truths. Yet we are not alone in our desire to understand and to be understood. God also wants to be understood — by us! And so he blesses us through the Holy Spirit with the Gift of Understanding, to endow us with a certain, intimate knowledge of himself.

We rely on the Holy Spirit through the Gift of Understanding to enlighten our minds to recognize the supernatural truth on which our wills should be intent. In the process, we come to see all human deeds in relation to the rule of the Eternal Law and our goal of divine communion.  The supernatural light of Understanding surpasses the range of natural reason as it endows us with the knowledge of the truth of how human acts are measured by divine law.  Herein lies the supreme value of the Gift of Understanding. 

For Understanding reveals to us how God’s eternal and necessary truths serve as steadfast standards for human conduct. Since the field of the Gift of Understanding extends to all interests relevant to the faith, Understanding also encompasses the good deeds we perform. Understanding enlightens us regarding works to be done. For human actions are governed by eternal reasons. And our human reason cleaves to God’s providential reasons by contemplating and being advised by them. In this way our human reason is perfected by the Gift of Understanding so as to facilitate our ready undertaking of good deeds.

In Divine Intimacy, Fr Gabriel explains how the Gift of Understanding helps us to progress in prayer:

The Gift of Understanding will…intervene with its light to illuminate our studies and our meditations on divine things, making us penetrate into their depths, making us “see” the intimate sense of the sacred texts and giving us a correct understanding of God’s commandments and counsels.  In this way, the Holy Spirit introduces the soul to a form of prayer more simple and profound:  the mind no longer needs to reason or to look for convincing motives; under the illuminating touch of the Holy Spirit, the soul’s gaze is arrested and fixed on truth.  This simple contemplative gaze reveals God to the soul better than any theological study…

Here are some occasions on which we should engage (or ask for more of) the Gift of Understanding:

  • If we find our purity of heart, our single-heartedness for God’s kingdom, is challenged by the rationalizations and allurements of the culture
  • When we know we should have a better answer for those who ask “How can a God of love allow all this suffering?”
  • If we have trouble recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, the words of Absolution, the baptism of a baby, etc.
  • When we think God may be working in our lives in a specific situation, but aren’t sure
  • When we are unsure if some good work that we would like to undertake is really inspired, is really God’s will for us
  • If our reading of the Sacred Scriptures seems tedious, dry and uninspiring

If you can think of other times when we should engage the Gift of Understanding, please share them with us in the Comment Box.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Formation, Gifts of HS summaries, Virtuous living

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