The Gift of Understanding
“Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
The gift of understanding is a spiritual gift that provides deeper insights into our faith and our relationship with God. Like all the gifts of the spirit, it flows from an intimate union with God, and enables us to discern His will in the choices we make in our lives.
St. Anselm’s phrase “faith seeking understanding” has been used as a definition of theology. If that is so, then we are all theologians for our Christian journey is to understand the faith that is within us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. Augustine who wrote, “I believe in order to understand, and I understand the better to believe.” (CCC 2518)
It is the gift of understanding that opens us to the content of Revelation and the great mysteries of our faith, the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation or the Resurrection. Of course the gift of understanding does not imply that we do not need to use our intellect, in the study of Sacred Scripture. For example, it would be presumptuous to believe that study was unnecessary for a correct understanding, (Dei Verbum 12 ¶8) rather it enlightens our mind to fathom the spiritual dimension, to see God’s hand at work in the world and in the knowledge and experience we have acquired.
The same gift enables us to see the Church as the continuing, saving presence of Jesus despite the human weaknesses we all bring to it. Through the gift of understanding we can find God even in the trials of life and the times of spiritual barrenness, those times when our prayer is “dear God, where are you.”
Understanding is the servant of faith that, like the gift of wisdom, it enables us to “see” with our hearts while listening to our intellect. It perfects, deepens and illumines our faith.
It is the “Good Friday” gift that promises “Easter Sunday.”
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