With that, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” Luke24:31-32
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:45
These two passages above, from two subsequent appearances of Jesus to the Apostles, produced a unique blessing. In each story, Jesus opened the minds of the Apostles to the Scriptures in a new way. These were ordinary men who were given an extraordinary gift of understanding. It didn’t come to them as a result of long study and hard work. Rather, it came to them as a result of their openness to Christ’s powerful action in their lives. Jesus unlocked the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven to them. As a result, they suddenly understood truths that could never be learned on their own. So, where the Apostles so quick to forget all that the Lord had Promised? St. Augustine of Hippo reflects on the Apostles short memory:
” They were so disturbed when they saw him hanging on the cross that they forgot His teaching, did not look for His Resurrection, and failed to keep His promises in mind” (Sermon 235.1).
“Their eyes were obstructed, that they should not recognize him until the breaking of the bread. And thus, in accordance with the state of their minds, which was still ignorant of the truth that the Christ would die and rise again, their eyes were similarly hindered. It was not that the Truth Himself was misleading them, but rather that they were themselves unable to perceive the truth.” (From the Harmony of the Gospels, 3.25.72)
So it is with us. The mysteries of God are vast and wide. They are deep and transforming. But so often we fail to understand. We often even fail to want to understand. Certainly, horrifying tragedies can shake our faith, can cause us to forget that Christ promised never to abandon us. Unfortunately, we even allow minor discomforts and inconveniences to shake our faith in Christ, we become blind to His powerful action in our lives. Because of Covid-19 and the Stay at Home orders, and financial difficulties, we may be struggling to hold on to hope. We may feel that we have “toiled in vain and for nothing” for years. We must remember that the Lord has promised that our “hope will not leave us disappointed”.
Think about those things in your life now, or in your past, that have left you confused. You need a special gift of the Holy Spirit to make sense of them. And you need this gift to make sense of the many good things of God found in the Scriptures also. This is the Gift of Understanding. It’s a spiritual gift that unlocks the many mysteries of life for us.
Without the Gift of Understanding, we are left on our own to try to make sense of life. This is especially true when we are faced with hardship and suffering. How is it, for example, that an all-powerful and all-loving God can allow the good and the innocent to suffer? How is it that God can seem absent at times from human tragedy?
The truth is that He is not absent. He is centrally involved in all things. What we need to receive is an understanding of the profound and mysterious ways of God. We need to understand the Scriptures, human suffering, human relationships, and divine action in our lives. But this will never happen unless we allow Jesus to open our minds.
Allowing Jesus to open our minds takes faith and surrender. It means we believe first and understand later. It means we trust Him even though we do not see. St. Augustine once said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of faith is to see what you believe.” Are you willing to believe without seeing? Are you willing to believe in the goodness and love of God even though life, or a particular situation in life, does not make sense?
Reflect, today, upon the Gift of Understanding. Believing in God means we believe in a person. We believe in Him even though we find ourselves confused about particular circumstances. But this gift of believing, the gift of faith, opens the door to a depth of understanding that we could never arrive at on our own.
May God bless you.
Rev. Fr. Douglas A. Ondeck