Pentecost and the Gift of Knowledge
Saint Ignatius of Loyola invites us to pray for an intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ. He is not inviting us to research Jesus Christ on Google until we get to the very heart of who Jesus is. This knowledge is not about the mere accumulation of facts.
A person can read theology books and every word of sacred scripture, but if that person is without a heartfelt understanding, they don’t really have knowledge of God. A wise person once reminded us that the longest journey in the world is from the head to the heart.
The smartest person in the world is not necessarily able to grasp divine truths and have a real appreciation for the surpassing greatness of God. Knowledge is one of the seven traditional gifts of the Holy Spirit, gifts that we celebrate with Pentecost.
Ignatius is inviting us to something like an image from the prophet Ezekiel. I opened my mouth; God gave me the scroll to eat and said, feed and be satisfied by the scroll I am giving you. I ate it and it tasted sweet as honey. That is knowledge! It helps us to see through created things to the God who created them.
Thus, instead of seeing created things as obstacles to union with God, I view them as instruments for union with God. This is similar to the desire of St. Ignatius that we find God in all things. Ignatius says all things. He says that everything on the face of the earth is created for humans, to help them attain union with God. It is easy to find God in a beautiful day or in a sense that all is right with my world.
True knowledge helps me discover that God is also at work in the difficulties of life. How can my illness bring me closer to the sufferings of Jesus? How can the challenges of my life help to unite me more closely to the sufferings of those around me?
His way of prayer is an invitation to grow in that intimate knowledge through meditation and contemplation that helps me to grow in a heartfelt sense of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and its relevance to my life.
The gift of knowledge helps the believer to use created things rightly, even in a holy way. This can help us to be detached from material goods. Ignatius is helpful again. The underpinning of his Spiritual Exercises is based precisely on that principle of detachment.
He is teaching us to have a proper relationship to material goods. Ignatius says that we should strive to make use of things if they help us to get closer to God and get rid of things if they prove a hindrance in our journey to God.
Ignatius goes even further. He suggests that we should strive for that same detachment and freedom concerning aspects of our very life. As far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honour to dishonour, a long life to a short life.
That radical attitude of freedom is only possible if I have a heartfelt and intimate, interior knowledge of the Lord. That sort of knowledge helps the believer to love and follow the Lord more closely. None of this is possible without prayer, in which I allow my entire life to be rooted and grounded in Christ. Let’s adopt the same attitude of Mary, the Mother of the Lord, in her pondering and treasuring of her Son. Let’s pray that this Pentecost will give us a glimmer at that knowledge of the Lord.