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Sunday, 23 April 1989



1. The reflection which we began on the preceding Sundays on the gifts of the Holy Spirit leads us today to speak of another gift, the gift of Knowledge, by which we are granted to know the true value of creatures in their relationship to the Creator.

We know that modern man, precisely because of the development of the sciences, is particularly exposed to the temptation to give a naturalistic interpretation to the world. Before the manifold magnificence of things, their complexity, variety and beauty, he runs the risk of absolutizing and almost divinizing them to the extent of making them the supreme purpose of his very life. This happens especially when it is a matter of riches, pleasure and power, which indeed can be drawn from material things. These are the principal idols before which the world too often prostrates.

2. In order to resist such subtle temptations and to remedy the pernicious consequences to which they can lead, the Holy Spirit aids people with the gift of Knowledge. It is this gift which helps them to value things correctly in their essential dependence on the Creator. Thanks to it, as St Thomas writes, man does not esteem creatures more than they are worth and does not place in them the end of his life, but in God (ct. "Summa Theol.". II-II, q. 9, a. 4).

He thus discovers the theological meaning of creation, seeing things as true and real, although limited, manifestations of the Truth, Beauty, and infinite Love which is God, and consequently he feels impelled to translate this discovery into praise, song, prayer, and thanksgiving. This is what the Book of Psalms suggests so often and in so many ways. Who does not recall some instances of this raising of the soul to God? "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork" (Ps 18 [19]:2; cf. Ps 8:2). "Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights.... Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining starsl" (Ps 148:1, 3).

3. Enlightened by the gift of Knowledge, man discovers at the same time the infinite distance which separates things from the Creator, their intrinsic limitation, the danger that they can present, when, through sin, he makes improper use of them. It is a discovery which leads him to realize with remorse his misery and impels him to turn with greater drive and confidence to him who alone can fully satisfy the need of the infinite which assails him.

This was the experience of the saints; it was also, we may say, the experience of the five Blessed whom I had the joy of raising to the honours of the altars today. However, in a very special way this was the experience of Our Lady who, by the example of her personal journey of faith teaches us to travel "among the events of the world, having our hearts fixed on where true joy resides" (Prayer of the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time).