Pope at General Audience: The gift of understanding

2014-05-02 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Under clear blue skies Wednesday, tens of thousands attended Pope Francis general audience, the first since the great canonization of the two Pope Saints on Sunday, the second in his series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

After touring at length through the throngs in his open top jeep, the Holy Father took to the raised dias before St Peter’s basilica for his catechesis, this week focusing on the second of these gifts: Understanding.

Emer McCarthy reports:

Below please find a Vatican Radio transcript and translation of the Holy Father’s full catechesis

Dear Brothers and Sisters Buongiorno,

After reflecting on wisdom, as the first of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, today I would like to focus attention on the second gift, that of understanding. It is not a question of human intelligence, the intellectual capacity with which we can be gifted to a greater or lesser degree. Instead, it is a grace that only the Holy Spirit can infuse and which awakens in the Christian the ability to go beyond the outward appearance of reality and scrutinize the depths of God’s thoughts and His plan of salvation.

The apostle Paul, speaking to the community of Corinth, describes the effects of this gift well – what this of understanding does in us - and Paul says this: "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit"(1 Cor 2:9-10 ) . This of course does not mean that a Christian can understand everything and have full knowledge of God’s plan: All of this will only be revealed in all its clarity when we find ourselves in the sight of God, and we are truly one with Him. Yet, as suggested by the word itself, understanding allows us to "intus legere" to "read into": and this gift helps us understand things as God he understands, as God understands, with the intelligence of God, because one can understand a situation with human intelligence, with prudence, and that's okay. But, to understand the situation in depth, as God understands, this is the effect of this gift. And Jesus wanted to send the Holy Spirit so that we could have this gift so that we can all see things as God understands, with the intelligence of God. This is a beautiful gift that the Lord has given us all. It is the gift with which the Holy Spirit brings us into intimacy with God and makes us part of the plan of love that He is weaving into the plots of our lives and history. It helps us to understand the true meaning of history.

So it is clear that the gift of understanding is closely related to faith. When the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and enlighten our minds, it makes us grow day by day in the understanding of what the Lord has said and done. Jesus himself said to his disciples: I will send the Holy Spirit and he will make you understand all that I have taught you. Understanding the teachings of Jesus, to understand His Word, to understand the Gospel, to understand God's Word. 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 depth of God's words . And this is a great gift, a great gift that we all have to ask for and ask together: Give us, O Lord, the gift of understanding. It helps us to perceive more and more how everything is a gift of His love for our salvation. The Lord himself has told us that the Holy Spirit would remind us of his teachings and would explain what we do not understand.

There is an episode from the Gospel of Luke, which expresses the depth and strength of this gift very well. After witnessing Christ’s death on the cross and his burial, two of his disciples , disappointed and heartbroken, leave Jerusalem and return to their village called Emmaus. While they are on the road, the Risen Jesus joins them and start talking with them, but their eyes, veiled with sadness and despair, are unable to recognize him. But when the Lord explained the Scriptures to them, so that they would understand that He had to suffer and die and then rise again, their minds open and hope is rekindled in their hearts (cf. Lk 24.13 to 27) . And this is what the Holy Spirit does for us: it opens our minds, opens us to better understand, to better understand the things of God, human things, situations, all things. It is an important gift for our Christian life. Let's ask the Lord to give us, to give all of us this gift to understand, as he understands, the things that happen, and, most importantly, to understand the Word of God in the Gospel.

This is precisely how the Holy Spirit acts within a Christian with the gift of understanding. We, too, oppressed by the weight of life and of our limitations, are unable to recognize the Lord beside us by ourselves. When, however, we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts, everything acquires a new light and tells us about God and His love.

Dear friends, how important the gift of understanding is for our Christian life! Through this gift , the Spirit of God breaks through the darkness of our minds and our hearts and makes us true believers, able to enjoy what the Lord reveals to us in His Word and rejoice in all that he does in our lives .

Below please find the English language summary of the Holy Father’s catechesis


Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of understanding. Born of our sharing in God’s life through faith and baptism, the gift of understanding enables us to see in all things the unfolding of his eternal plan of love. The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and enlightens our minds, guiding us to an ever deeper understanding of Christ’s teaching and his saving mission. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we often fail to recognize the the Lord walking at our side and the working of God’s grace in our lives and the world around us. Yet thanks to the Spirit’s gift of understanding, our eyes are opened and our hearts burn within us (cf. Lk 24:13-27) as we recognize the Risen Lord’s presence and view all things in a new light, with fresh spiritual insight. How important it is to implore this gift of understanding! Through it the Holy Spirit dispels the darkness of our minds and hearts, strengthens us in faith and enables us to savour the richness of God’s word and its promise of salvation.


I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, Finland, Norway, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Uganda, South Africa, Canada and the United States. Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord. God bless you all!