Why should you embrace an understanding of God? Gaining an understanding of God’s ways is a good place to start in building a relationship with Him. Yet developing an understanding of God requires some effort. Understanding is a gift from the Holy Spirit. We are each gifted with the capability to understand God and His ways, through a natural, cognitive approach to take knowledge and apply reason to arrive at understanding.
Understanding is also a virtue that falls under the umbrella of the theological virtue of Faith. What we believe and how we go about acting on our beliefs derives from knowledge that we have acquired over time. Believing in something because someone else told you to do so, is defined as heteronomy. The Catholic Church does not espouse heteronomy, contrary to what some people may think. Nor does the Catholic Church espouse autonomy; to believe it is acceptable to act in whatever manner you choose because you want to, or because it feels good.
To truly embrace an understanding of God, and the tenets of faith, one must apply knowledge, ask questions, use one’s reason, and form opinions. This middle ground is defined by Saint Pope John Paul II as participated theonomy, where “reason draws its own truth and authority from the eternal law, which is none other than divine wisdom itself…God makes it clear that man does not originally possess such ‘knowledge’ as something properly his own, but only participates in it by the light of natural reason and of Divine Revelation, which manifest to him the requirements and the promptings of eternal wisdom.” 1 We participate through free obedience of our reason and will.
With understanding, we grow spiritually. I have experienced tremendous spiritual growth over these past three years of study for my Masters in Pastoral Theology. I have taken the knowledge imparted to me from the early Church fathers, through to the Second Vatican Council, applied reason, asked a ton of questions (just ask any of my professors) and have come to better understand the Church’s stance and wisdom on several hot-button issues, from respect for life, to the use of contraception, to women priests.
Over the next three reflections, I will share with you what I have learned over the past three years related to these hot-button issues, and hopefully adequately explain for you why the Church takes the stance that it has officially taken on these issues. Don’t miss it!
1 Saint Pope John Paul II. Encyclical Letter: Veritatis Splendor, pars 40, 41. Holy See: Vaticano, 1993, Print.