VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis explained that the Holy Spirit’s gift of understanding allows Christians to obtain “intimacy with God” and helps them understand things “as God understands them.”
“When the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and enlightens our minds, he makes us grow day by day in the understanding of what the Lord has said and accomplished,” the Pope said at his Wednesday audience on April 30.
“One can read the Gospel and understand something, but if we read the Gospel with this gift of the Holy Spirit, we can understand the depths of God’s words.”
The Pope said Christians must pray together: “Give us, Lord, the gift of understanding.”
Catholic theology traditionally recognizes seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Pope Francis began a catechesis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his April 9 Wednesday audience, when he discussed wisdom.
On April 30, he explained that the Holy Spirit’s gift of understanding differs from human understanding, the “intellectual prowess” that varies from person to person.
“What a beautiful gift the Lord has given us. It is the gift with which the Holy Spirit introduces us into intimacy with God and makes us sharers in the plan of love which he has for us,” he said.
The Pope noted that Jesus told his disciples he would send the Holy Spirit to help them understand everything he had taught them.
This kind of understanding is a “grace” that “awakens in a Christian the ability to go beyond the outward appearance of reality and to probe the depths of the thoughts of God and his plan of salvation.”
This gift does not mean that a Christian can “comprehend all things” and have “full knowledge of the designs of God,” Pope Francis clarified. Rather, it helps the Christian to “read inwardly” and “understand things as God understands them.”
While human understanding and prudence are good, Jesus Christ desired to send the Holy Spirit so that everyone might understand “with the mind of God,” he explained.
Pope Francis said the Gospel story of the disciples who encountered the risen Jesus Christ on the road to Emmaus shows the “depth and power” of the Holy Spirit’s gift of understanding.
Believing Jesus to be dead, the disciples’ eyes were “veiled with sadness and despair” and could not recognize him.
“When, however, the Lord explains the Scriptures to them so that they might understand that he had to suffer and die in order, then, to rise again, their minds are opened, and hope is rekindled in their hearts,” the Pope said.
He said the Holy Spirit “opens our minds” and “opens us to understand better the things of God, human things, situations, all things.”
Pope Francis encouraged Christians to pray for the gift to understand things as God understands them and to understand, “above all, the word of God in the Gospel.”
The Pope then greeted English-speaking pilgrims at the audience, invoking upon them and their families “the joy and peace of the risen Lord.”
He also voiced his special thoughts for young people, the sick and newlyweds, encouraging them to look to the example of St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast day was Tuesday.
“Dear young people, may you learn from her to live with an upright conscience of one who does not give in to human compromise,” he said. “Dear sick, may you be inspired by her example of strength in moments of greater suffering. And may you, dear newlyweds, imitate the firmness of faith of those who trust in God.”