August 7, 2022
There is so much in our life that is hard to understand, whose meaning is hidden, mysterious. By this gift, the Holy Spirit gives us a divine light to help us understand these mysteries better.
This is the fifth in a series of nine homilies on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The following are the links to all the homilies in this series:
1st – The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
2nd – The Gift of Fear of the Lord
3rd – The Gift of Piety
4th – The Gift of Fortitude
5th – The Gift of Understanding
6th – The Gift of Counsel
7th – The Gift of Knowledge
8th – The Gift of Wisdom
9th – Searching for Wisdom
- In a lot of Scripture, Jesus is revealing what is hidden, often using parables revealing what is hidden from us such as His own divinity.
- God has given us our intelligence to go beyond appearances, and to understand more deeply, to penetrate into things.
- Our intelligence is limited, especially when we begin to discover what we are created for, a supernatural end.
- The gift of understanding our intelligence is a supernatural light that the Holy Spirit gives us to understand deeply and get to the heart of things.
- This gift of understanding principally helps us understand about the truths of our faith, such as the divine mysteries like the Trinity, the Blessed Trinity.
- This gift of understanding helps our faith because by faith, we are ascending to something, penetrating more deeply to strengthen our faith.
- God is anxious to begin to reveal His Divine Mysteries to us. The Holy Spirit Himself is helping to illuminate and guide us.
The gift of understanding is also called the gift of intelligence. It’s given to all Christians, at Baptism. Like all the gifts of the Holy Spirit it depends on the cooperation of each one of us, so that gift can grow in us.
St. Thomas says that the gift of intelligence helps us at least to understand that something is something that I should believe, even if I don’t understand it, at least to realize that it’s something that I should believe. So, it’s about the truths of the faith.
St. John says, the gift of the Holy Spirit, teaches us all things, which are necessary for salvation. St. Thomas says that this gift is about what is the truth of the faith, what is necessary for our salvation.
We can humbly recognize that we need it, and then we can make an act of trust in the Holy Spirit, that He is wanting to help us understand more deeply the Divine Mysteries in our life.
“Do not be afraid, any longer, little flock, for it has pleased your Father, to give you the kingdom.” Jesus is revealing the hidden presence of our Father and His hidden plans for us. And in the letter to the Hebrews, we hear, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for, the evidence of things that are not seen.” Things that are not seen. There’s a lot of things which we don’t see, which are hidden from us and that our intelligence needs to try to penetrate. And just to give you some different examples, think of nature, how much in nature, we’re not sure about. Say you see a plant and you don’t know what that plant is, is that a good plant? Is that a bad plant? Or you see an effect? And you’re not sure what caused that? Like, you hear a noise? Like I was thinking of the noise of the first time I heard coyotes yelping altogether. I didn’t know what that noise was. Or say, there’s a spot on your skin, and you’re not sure what’s causing that spot? Is it something dangerous? Or think of even words, that’s the word that often we’re not always clear? What does a word mean? Whether it’s a new word, or it’s a word in another language? What does it mean? A baby has to learn, a little child that learns what the words mean. Or even someone’s attitude, someone’s body language? What does their body language mean? Like, for instance, we can misunderstand a fearful attitude for an angry attitude and misread their body language and someone’s actions. We’re not always sure. Why, what is the hidden motive beside behind someone’s actions? Are they really trying to be helpful? Or are they trying to deceive us? And scripture has many examples. In fact, a lot of Scripture is Jesus revealing what is hidden, often using parables like in the Gospel today, revealing what is hidden from us. And the very person of Jesus, His own divinity, was hidden. And it was only little by little, that people began to discover it. And think, how much is hidden in our own lives? How easy it is? How many times have we felt misunderstood by other people who were misinterpreting what we were trying to say? Or how many times have we been the ones who have been misunderstanding, someone else misjudging someone else? Even our own life, is not easy to understand. What is the meaning of my life? What’s going on in my life? Who am I? Who am I really, and how am I in God’s eyes? For instance, there can be hard things in our life, painful, difficult things. And we can interpret it as meaning that God has abandoned us, or God is angry with us. When on the contrary, it might be a sign that God is asking us, as a special friend of His, to help Him carry His cross. So even the meaning of events in our life, are not always easy to understand. And so, God has given us our intelligence, our intelligence, which is to go beyond just what are the appearances, what our senses can perceive, and to try to understand things more deeply, to penetrate into things. And so as often happens, we start with the outside, but then gradually, our intelligence can get a deeper understanding. For instance, think of a person like a doctor, who by his study, and by also a lot of experience, can begin to see a person and sense what’s wrong with them, what the problem is. Or even think of the common experience of getting to know a person, you see a person you have your initial impressions of them. But then if you have a chance to get to know them, you begin to understand them much more deeply. And you might begin to realize that there’s a lot more to this person than I realized that maybe some of my initial impressions were maybe off base. So, our human intelligence can be very helpful to understanding many things like science and technology. But it’s also limited, our intelligence is limited, and we can make mistakes. And especially, it’s limited when we begin to discover that we are created for a supernatural end. And that’s what Jesus is talking about in the Gospel, that there’s a supernatural end, a divine reason for our life that is hidden. And so, for those things, we need a supernatural light, the light of our own human intelligence is inadequate, we need a supernatural light. And the good news is that the Lord gives us a supernatural light, that we don’t just have to figure all these things out by ourselves. But He’s given us a special gift of the Holy Spirit. And that’s very helpful. And I said, it’s very good news to realize that the Holy Spirit’s helping us. And so, this will be the fourth gift that we’re looking at. We’ve been doing a series of looking at the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as trying to understand better, different ways that the Holy Spirit is helping us in our life. And so, we’ve been following, especially the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, as we look at these gifts. So today, we’re looking at the gift of understanding. It’s also called the gift of intelligence. So, the gift of understanding, or the gift of intelligence, and my voice just became louder. That’s understanding, so you understand. So, the gift of understanding our intelligence is a supernatural light, that the Holy Spirit gives us to understand more deeply than our human intelligence could, to get to the heart of things. Think of what we mean when we say, I understand. Now I understand that you’ve come to a deeper intelligence, of something. And so, this gift of intelligence is an understanding that doesn’t come from studies, or from our human abilities, but comes as a supernatural light, from the Holy Spirit. So, what type of things does this gift of understanding help us understand? It’s principally about the truths of our faith, such as the divine mysteries, like the Trinity, the Blessed Trinity. The Blessed Trinity is a mystery which will always surpass us, which we will never completely understand the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. But by the gift of intelligence, we can have a deeper understanding of it, for instance, to realize that God is not solitary, but God is a loving communion of Persons. And our human life, for instance, a marriage is built as an image of God as a loving communion of Persons in the Trinity. And St. Thomas says that the gift of intelligence helps us at least to understand that this is something that I should believe, even if I don’t understand it, at least to realize that it’s something that I should believe. So, it’s about the truths of the faith, and the things that he says that are subordinate to the truth of the faith, that is the things that are illuminated by faith. So, we have an example in the reading, the second reading we had today about Abraham. It says, “Abraham sojourned in the Promised Land, as in a foreign country, for he was looking forward to the city with foundations,” that heavenly city. So, what this is saying that Abraham understood that this place, this new land, what we call Palestine today, this new land was not going be his final place, that this new land and this new stage in his life was not a place where he was going to stay. But it was a preparation for heaven. So, this gift of the Holy Spirit was helping him understand what was going on in his life, the place he was staying, and what God was doing in his life at that point. And so, the gift of intelligence, for instance, can help us understand the events in our own lives. And we can understand how, for instance, for some trials, and sacrifices and sufferings that we’re going through, that when we offer those out of love, there’s a great good that can come out of those. Think of when Jesus was walking with the two apostles, the two disciples, after Jesus’ Resurrection, they’re the two disciples going back, as the night of the Resurrection of Jesus came up to them, and that they were talking with them. And then it says, in Jesus, beginning with Moses, and all the prophets, interpreted to them, and all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself. That is, they knew something about what had just happened, they knew that they believed Jesus was a prophet of God, and that He had been crucified. But now Jesus is, first of all, He’s opening up to them a deeper understanding of scriptures, and a deeper understanding of how the scriptures were referring to Him, and to the events that they had just lived. And so, He was giving them a deeper understanding of Scripture, and a deeper understanding of the events that they were living, by this gift of intelligence. And so, think of all that’s going on today, of what’s going on today in our world. And we have a limited understanding of what’s going on. Many times, there’s a lot of evil deception that’s going on, that we’re not aware of. But also, even much more deeply, there’s God’s own plans. And we don’t always see how God can be guiding all of this according to His plans. So, these are the type of things that our faith can help us, by the gift of understanding, understand better. St. John, speaking about this says, “the Lord’s anointing teaches you all things.” And what is this anointing? What is this anointing referring to? It’s referring to the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit, which teaches us, St. John says, all things, that is things which are necessary for salvation. St. Thomas says that this gift is above all about what is the truth of the faith, what is necessary for our salvation. But he goes on to say, concerning other things, “the Holy Spirit may withdraw our understanding, to help us avoid pride.” So, He leaves us in obscurity on many things to help us avoid pride, but about what is essential, He is enlightening us. And so, this gift of understanding helps our faith because by faith, we’re ascending to something. We’re saying, okay, I believe that I don’t understand something. But I believe that, for instance, about the Trinity, or about how Jesus could be true God and true man, or about the Blessed Sacrament, that we’re celebrating now, how Jesus can be truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, by faith we assent to that. But by this gift of understanding, we can begin to understand better, to like, penetrate more deeply, so that it deepens and strengthens our faith. So, to whom is given this gift of intelligence? Who gets the gift of intelligence? It’s like a lottery, right? And some people win that lottery. It’s given to all Christians, at Baptism. Like all the gifts of the Holy Spirit is given to all of us. Jesus says, “It is written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. They shall all be taught by God.” So, it’s given to us, all of us, like a seed. And each one of us has to cooperate so that seed can grow. So, it depends on the cooperation of each one of us, so that gift can grow in us. And this is why there can be simple persons who don’t have a lot of studies, and don’t have maybe a strong, extraordinary intelligence, but they can have deeper penetration into the Divine Mysteries, if they’re humble and open to the Holy Spirit, than someone who is maybe very learned, but is proud. And so, in conclusion, like Abraham, God has called each of us to a mysterious journey, where there’s much that is beyond our human abilities to understand. He says to each of us, “do not be afraid, any longer, little flock, for this pleased your Father, to give you His kingdom, and to lead you to His mysterious kingdom.” And God is anxious to begin revealing His Divine Mysteries to us. His anointing teaches you all things. So, this is good news, that the Holy Spirit Himself is helping to illuminate and guide us. So, as we celebrate this Mass with our Blessed Mother, what can we do to help that seed grow in us? We can humbly recognize that we need it, and then we can make an act of trust in the Holy Spirit, that He is wanting to help us understand more deeply the Divine Mysteries in our life. So, we can keep that in mind as we live this week, being attentive to the ways the Holy Spirit is trying to lead us to a deeper understanding. And even as we celebrate this Mass, this Mass of the Sacred Mysteries, there’s so much hidden in this Mass. What any human can see, is the little white host that the priest raises. But it’s just a little white wafer that our senses can see. And it’s only faith that we can begin to believe that it’s God’s own presence, the presence of Jesus Christ in that. And so, the gift of understanding can help us penetrate the Divine Mysteries that we’re celebrating right now in this Mass. “It is written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” Amen.