By Fr. Hau Vu
No one likes to live in the state of “not knowing.” We all want to know the answers to our questions, and we want those answers right away, too! Our desire to know isn’t a bad thing; it is a good desire because that is how God created us. He built within us humans an innate desire “to know.” This desire is first and foremost a desire to know our Creator. Thus, knowledge is a gift from God. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
Everything that we know to be true, beautiful and right is naturally ordered to God. However, original sin – the turning away from God by seeking knowledge and immortality elsewhere – distorted the ordering of this desire from God to ourself. We want to be the one who knows everything; essentially, we want to be the Knower, who is God. It is this disordering that creates the tension and dissatisfaction we experience from “not knowing”… between living with earthly knowledge in the present, the “already,” and living with eternal knowledge in the future, the “not yet.”
Like Adam and Eve, many people today still aren’t able to resist or recognize this disordering of knowledge toward the self. When we acknowledge that God gifts us with knowledge and order it toward Him, we can then use it to create a life the way God intended it to be. When we believe knowledge is not God-given, but rather self-generated, we then use knowledge as a means toward our own personal good, as a weapon against others, or even as an end in itself. God is not included in our plans because we have deviated from God’s Divine Plan.
That is why Jesus chose the Twelve Apostles to be with him and journey with him during his mission on Earth. He not only wanted them to know him, but he wanted them to be in relationship with him: to love him, to serve him and to allow Him to serve them; to share in His joys, happiness and sadness. This is the knowledge of eternal life. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent” (Jn 17:3). Jesus invited them – as He invites us – to enter into His Divine Intimacy, a Divine Knowledge of Himself and his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit; an intimacy that can only be received as a gift when we allow our knowledge to be ordered and in relationship with God.
We humans are created with an innate desire to be in a relationship with our Creator, for that Divine Intimacy of Trinitarian Love. Our desire for knowing is built upon this desire to be in relationship with God. That is why true knowledge is gained by walking through the narrow gate of Christ’s heart. Doing so requires of us an active and abiding lived-out love that lets go of the self-centered desire for knowledge and reorders that desire to be with and in love with the Knower as well as those whom He gifts to us. What use is it to “…fathom all the mysteries and all knowledge, and… have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love”? This is why St. Paul rightly concludes, “I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:1). A person who has knowledge without God loves oneself. That is the demise of the human person who treats knowledge as an end and not as a means towards God.
We cannot know anything unless God has revealed it and given it to us. And God has done just that by giving us His Son, Jesus Christ. Through Him, with Him and in Him we are brought into Divine Intimacy. We are given eternal knowledge whenever we receive the Sacraments or listen to the Word of God.
But those who desire knowledge apart from what God has revealed and continues to reveal to us don’t realize that that isn’t knowledge at all. Knowledge that negates the Knower is an illusion that many have taken upon themselves as “truth.” That illusion is a lie that has created a false reality, and many have fallen into it. But there is still hope because Jesus does not give up on us. He waits for us to enter into relationship with Him and receive His gift of True Knowledge. This gift is not only something for us to experience in this life, but also in eternal life. This divine and eternal knowledge is contrary to the thoughts and ways of the world. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
How do we begin to know God and His ways? All we have to do is to be open to receiving the Word and to love Him. It is that easy. Before he was crucified, Jesus offered this prayer to God the Father for all of his disciples, including you and me: “Father, I have revealed Your name to those You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they know that everything You have given Me comes from You. For I have given them the words You gave Me, and they have received them. They know with certainty that I came from You, and they believe that You sent Me” (Jn 17:6-9).
Our loving God gifts us with the desire for knowledge so that He may draw us closer to Him, the Source of all Truth. Get to know God, to love God and to serve God, and you will receive True Knowledge.
Fr. Hau Vu is Director of Vocations in the Diocese of San Bernardino.