This is a continuing series on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Today I will consider the gift of understanding. I am using Mitch Finley's book The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit as a basis for some of my ideas.
Understanding is often listed as the second gift of the Holy Spirit. The first gift wisdom enables us to see the presence of God. Understanding is a gift for comprehending the things of life in relation to God and for going deeper into the truths held by the faith. Through understanding we see with the heart while listening to the intellect. Understanding is a gift that is more easily understood experientially.
Understanding helps us embrace the positive uses for technology while rejecting its misuse. The gift of understanding helps one to see the good use of something in the world while holding up a standard of love and Gospel values while evaluating that thing. For example, medical technology has brought about many wonders, but when the same technology is used to end lives through abortion or euthanasia it must be rejected.
When we recognize God' presence in unlikely people or places then we are using the gift of understanding. While it is easy to see God in the birth of a baby, understanding helps us to see God when calamity happens as well. Understanding helps us to recognize that God's ways are not our ways, that God is both distant creator and Master, and the author of pure love. Through understanding we can recognize that God is both a complete mystery and absolute love. Some people demonstrate a lack in the gift of understanding when they hold attitudes such as, "A loving God wouldn't allow children to die." That bad things happen in this world is a mystery of God's creation. Through understanding we can see that good can come out of events that would only be viewed as bad.
Through understanding we can accept the human and divine nature of Jesus. Although a mystery, through understanding we can accept that Jesus was a real human being and also divinely conceived by the Holy Spirit. All the the Gospels bring this out, that Christ was both man and God, not chiefly one or the other.
In our lives in faith, understanding helps us to continue in our churches despite the many flaws within them. Through understanding we see beyond the mistakes and sins and rather look at the mission, the intent of the church. Instead of seeing all the sinners there, we can use understanding to see that the church is a training ground for saints, some just haven't arrived yet. And understanding helps us to live the Gospel of tension created by the challenges given to us in recognizing our obligations to the poor of the world. Understanding helps us to recognize that our lives every day are living witnesses to the teachings of Christ.
In my own life, understanding helps me to see the bigger picture when I look at such things as the priest abuse scandal or people in my community who make poor choices. Understanding helps me to focus on the good and holy and pleasing parts rather than the mistakes. One example I can think of is, if I only focused on a baby's stinky diapers, then surely I could not enjoy and love the baby. In life there is good and bad. It is necessary to change the stinky diaper and deal with the problems, but it is healthy to then focus on worthwhile and pleasing parts. Through understanding I can see with the heart.