Guest Homily – The Gifts of the Holy Spirit of Knowledge and Understanding

Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a treasure buried in a field, to a rare priceless pearl, and to a large haul of fish.

(This is a very powerful homily I heard this past Sunday, whose author kindly gave me permission to share with all of you. The Catholic faithful need to hear many more like this!)

RIGHT AND WRONG: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A homily given by Fr. Dennis Koliński, SJC
Sacred Heart Church in Springfield, Illinois
26 July 2020

Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a treasure buried in a field, to a rare priceless pearl and to a large haul of fish. On the surface it seems as if He is talking about acquiring material riches but His examples are just analogies taken from life in this physical world to show that if one would do almost anything to acquire material riches, how much more should we desire to acquire the eternal treasure of heaven, which far exceeds anything of this earth?

This is essentially what the young Solomon did. God gave him a chance to request anything that he desired, and instead of asking for riches or some other earthly good, Solomon asked God for the wisdom to discern right from wrong. So, God made him so wise in understanding human affairs that Solomon’s wisdom became renowned throughout the ancient world and has been celebrated even up to our very day.

God also gave each of us, who are baptized, the same wisdom as Solomon. It is, however, up to us as to whether we use it. For, when we are in the state of sanctifying grace we are given the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which enhance the soul by making it responsive to the movement of the Holy Spirit within our souls. They make the soul receptive and ready to obey divine inspirations. And because the reason and the will are dark, weak and fallible due to our fallen human nature, we need the help of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to grow in virtue.

One gift given to each of us when we are in the state of sanctifying grace, which corresponds to the gift that God gave Solomon, is the gift of knowledge. This gift enables us to judge everything from a supernatural viewpoint. It helps us pass judgment on creatures, which can easily turn us away from God. It gives us proper judgment concerning the truths of the faith. It is the Gift of the Holy Spirit, by which the human intellect under the action of the Holy Spirit judges rightly concerning created things as related to Christian perfection and our ultimate end, which is eternal life. It gives us a certitude in judging things of this world that allows us to instinctively know what is right or what is wrong. That is, it gives us the ability to judge things of this world as God would.

Each of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit combats a particular human defect. In the case of the gift of knowledge, it guards us against the defect of ignorance by teaching us how to judge rightly concerning created things in relation to God. It guides us with certitude concerning what we must believe or not believe. And it, thus, detaches us from things of earth, showing us how to use things in a holy way, so that we are not detained by created things in our journey to God.

Another Gift of the Holy Spirit, which corresponds to the gift that God gave Solomon, is the gift of understanding, a supernatural enlightenment or insight given to the mind so that we can grasp revealed truths easily and profoundly. It differs from faith because faith merely assents to a truth, whereas understanding gives insight into the meaning of what we believe.

The gift of understanding corresponds to the beatitude “Blessed is the pure of heart for they shall see God,” for the insight we get from it frees the heart from inordinate affections and therefore from errors. The gift of understanding cleanses the soul from fancy and error so that one instinctively understands a truth when God proposes it.

This spiritual instinct that gives us the ability to see things as God does and to assess them as He would, works on a spiritual plane much as the human instinct we call common sense.

The supernatural Gifts of knowledge and understanding inform our human common sense, giving us the ability to make judgments grounded in right reason. They are the reason that illiterate peasants with no education in moral theology have for centuries been able to instinctively know what is right and what is wrong.

We automatically possess these marvelous Gifts of understanding and knowledge that give us the ability to think as God thinks whenever we are in a state of sanctifying grace. However, we need to properly dispose ourselves in order for them to operate within us. For instance, attachment to things of this world, the incessant bombardment of technological stimuli and the unending stream of media propaganda can very easily cloud one’s soul with unnecessary distractions and misinformation that can hinder the operation of the Gifts within us. We can also put up obstacles that prevent the Gifts from functioning within our souls, even if one is still in a state of sanctifying grace.

But mortal sin doesn’t just put up an obstacle to the functioning of the Gifts within us. It destroys the Gifts of the Holy Spirit within us, along with sanctifying grace. And if one remains in a state of mortal sin for an extended period of time devoid of that instinctive spiritual ability to think as God does (because such a person no longer has the life of God within him), then that person will soon begin to think not as God does but as the world does—and we know well how the world thinks today.

It is very easy to see that our present world is very messed up and this, in great part, is because so many people no longer have the ability to make proper judgments based on right reason. They have lost the ability to assess the world around them according to God’s standards. Because they have become blinded by ideologies, they no longer have common sense.

What is most disturbing is that many Catholics apparently no longer have the ability to make judgements according to right reason, either because they are living in a persistent state of mortal sin or because they have placed such obstacles to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit that the Gifts do not function within their souls.

For instance, many people in the pro-life movement see great hope because so many young people see the evil of abortion. Polls have shown that a large majority of young people aged 18 – 29 believe that abortion should not be legal in most or all cases. Yet, at the same time, the polls show that most of them don’t accept the Church’s teachings on sexual morality. A significant number of Catholics of all age groups see nothing wrong with contraception, and are oblivious to the fact that the contraception leads to abortion and that it has always been condemned as evil since the very beginning of the Church.

Something is terribly amiss when such large numbers of Catholics, especially young Catholics, approve of something that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit should be telling them is wrong according to perennial Church teaching. Large numbers of Catholics, who should be defending the Church’s moral teachings, are either blinded by a perpetual state of mortal sin or have so thoroughly bought into what the world is telling them, in spite of the fact that they may be in a state of sanctifying grace, that they have so obstructed the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that they have ceased to function within their souls.

This should be cause for each of us to ponder. For, if today God would ask you whether you would desire that He give you a long life, good health, or riches, or as Solomon did, an understanding heart so that you would be able to distinguish between right and wrong, what would you ask for? Would you wish to have the riches of this world or instead of the spiritual riches that God would give you to live a more faithful Christian life and save your soul?

Instead of distorted concepts of freedom and misplaced sentimentalities, we should sell all of our attachments to the world in order to have the treasure hidden in the mystery of God’s truth. It is my hope that you would desire to give all that you have to acquire the great pearl of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, so as the angels will separate the good fish from the bad at the end of time, you will always be able, as Solomon, to discern right from wrong.

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