Tuesday, 19 July 2016



“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand,”  (Is. 41. 10). 
The prophet Isaiah’s comforting words floated into my mind as I lay semi-conscious in a hospital bed.  Although as a Dominican I’d spent years reflecting on the sacred Scriptures it was only in this moment of personal crisis that God’s words spoke directly to me, reassured me and comforted me in my need. What was so familiar suddenly came alive for me, took on a new depth of meaning.
What I experienced was wonderful, but not extraordinary for a Christian.   At baptism we become God’s children and share His own divine life.   We receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These give us a divine instinct to think and behave like God.  The closer we are to God, the more we become like Him.
 The gift of understanding enables us to penetrate ever more deeply into the mystery of God and of His work of salvation. Certainly we believe in these mysteries.  But through the gift of understanding they touch not just our minds but our hearts.  That can transforms our lives.
That happened on the road to Emmaus, as the risen Lord walked and talked with two disciples.  As they told Him of their distress at Jesus’ crucifixion He explained to them how the Scriptures had foretold His death and resurrection. Although they knew the Scriptures they hadn’t made the connection with His Passion.   But on reflection everything fell into place.   Thanks to the gift of understanding they exclaimed,
“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”     (Lk. 24.32).
As a priest I’ve often marveled at the way the gift of understanding enables devout young children and unlettered adults to go to the heart of the deepest of mysteries. Without being learned theologians they can recognise and love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; they can talk freely with Him in their prayers. With a God-given instinct they can tell if something is against the faith, without their being able to explain how.  And the great reassurance for the preacher is that the gift of understanding can enable his listener to get something helpful out of even the worst of sermons!
Isidore Clarke O.P.

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