Understanding is the second gift of the Holy Spirit, and people sometimes have a hard time understanding (no pun intended) how it differs from wisdom. While wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, understanding allows us grasp, at least in a limited way, the very essence of the truths of the Catholic Faith. Through understanding, we gain a certitude about our beliefs that moves beyond faith.

Understanding gives us an insight in to the mysteries of faith and helps us to explain in the faith to others. Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to "walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God."

The Second of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Understanding is the second of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit enumerated in Isaiah 11:2-3, behind only wisdom. It differs from wisdom in that wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, while understanding allows us, as Fr. John A. Hardon writes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, to "penetrate to the very core of revealed truths." This doesn't mean that we can come to understand, say, the Trinity the way that we might a mathematical equation, but that we become certain of the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity. Such certitude moves beyond faith, which "merely assents to what God has revealed."
 

Understanding in Practice

Once we become convinced through understanding of the truths of the Faith, we can also draw conclusions from those truths and arrive at a further understanding of man's relation to God and his role in the world. Understanding rises above natural reason, which is concerned only with the things we can sense in the world around us.

Thus, understanding is both speculative—concerned with intellectual knowledge—and practical, because it can help us to order the actions of our lives toward our final end, which is God. Through understanding, we see the world and our life within it in the larger context of the eternal law and the relation of our souls to God.

Pope Francis Teaches On The Spiritual Gift of Understanding 

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Continuing his ongoing teachings on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, as set forth in the Prophet Isaiah, Pope Francis gave this teaching on the gift of understanding to the thousands who gathered in St. Peter's square on Wednesday, April 30, 2014:

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Pope Francis on the Gift of Understanding

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.

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Prayer

O Spirit of Wisdom, preside over all my thoughts, words and actions, from this hour until the moment of my death. Spirit of Understanding, enlighten and teach me. Spirit of Counsel, direct my inexperience. Spirit of Fortitude, strengthen my weakness. Spirit of Knowledge, instruct my ignorance. Spirit of Piety, make me fervent in good works. Heavenly Spirit, make me persevere in the service of God, and enable me to act on all occasions with goodness and kindness, charity and joy, with long-suffering, mildness and fidelity. Let the heavenly virtues of modesty, continency and chastity, adorn the temple you have chosen for your abode. Spirit of Holiness, by your all powerful grace, preserve me from the misfortune of sin. Amen.
Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager
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