The first of the enumerated gifts of the Holy Spirit is Wisdom. This gift is imparted to us in order to help us appreciate the virtue of faith. It is considered the perfection of faith, for wisdom helps us to order all things correctly in light of our faith in Jesus Christ. Through the gift of wisdom, we move beyond the simple knowledge of the articles of faith to a correct understanding or penetration of the truths themselves. As we grow in our understanding of the truths of our faith, wisdom helps us to view them in the light of our destiny to live with God forever. While we are in the world, wisdom helps us to see beyond the ephemeral and fleeting joys of this world to the eternal joy of our life with God. A person of faith does not reject the world. Rather, the person of faith who is blessed with the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit understands that the material gifts and joys of this world are not to supersede the spiritual gifts for which we are destined.
The second of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is Understanding. Many have difficulty in seeing the difference between this gift and the gift of Wisdom. To be sure, Understanding must come before Wisdom but at the same time pales by comparison. Through the gift of understanding we come to certitude about our faith. Once we become certain of the truths of our faith, it is possible to gain the Wisdom necessary to arrange our lives in such a way that they reflect our certitude.
Both of these gifts find their perfection in Jesus, the Word made Flesh. Throughout his life Jesus taught the truths of our faith. He also embodies those truths. For instance, Jesus taught that obedience to the will of the Father was the vocation of all believers. His example of obedience to God’s will led him to the ability to give up his life for others. The Wisdom which inhabited his life illuminated his teaching to show us that our lives are not about ourselves. Rather, our lives are to be lived for others. This conclusion can only be reached by the one who possesses the Wisdom to see life as the means to an end.
Another character from the Scriptures who usually comes to mind when we speak of Wisdom is King Solomon. In the third chapter of the First Book of Kings we read: “You have shown great kindness to your servant, David my father, because he walked before you with fidelity, justice, and an upright heart; and you have continued this great kindness toward him today, giving him a son to sit upon his throne. Now, LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed David my father; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act—I, your servant, among the people you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil. For who is able to give judgment for this vast people of yours?” (I Kings 3:6-9) Notice how Solomon’s prayer is based upon his understanding of David’s faith in God. That understanding led him to ask for the gift of wisdom. God was pleased with the request and granted it while also giving him long life, victory over his enemies, and great wealth.
O God, Who instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator