By Joseph Huy Nguyen
Well-educated people are often judged by degrees, awards, and GPA, yet a high GPA does not guarantee that someone is more knowledgeable than others.
Indeed, knowledge is not only in the mind. Knowledge must be in the heart. The author of the Book of Proverbs wrote, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (Prv 13:3). Having knowledge in the heart is crucial, especially to make God’s love visible to people.
People who truly love learning will try to inscribe the knowledge they acquire on their hearts. They want to explore and do something with the knowledge they have learned. According to David Wilkerson, an American Christian evangelist, “Love is not only something you feel, it is something you do.” It is the heart that motivates us to show that we love what we learn.
The ancient Hebrews considered the heart as the center of the human being. Without the functioning of the heart, the brain cannot work properly. The heart is the center of our life.
St. Paul emphasized the significance of love, “If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing” (1Cor 13:2). Having the knowledge of love is pivotal.
Knowledge in the heart is the knowledge of transformation. During the Rite of Ordination, the bishop reminds candidates to “believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
Only through action can we transform people. Look at the scribes and Pharisees. They knew the law very well but did not practice it. Jesus told the people not to follow their example. Knowledge in the heart truly leads to action.
Knowledge in the heart is the knowledge of humility. The Book of Proverbs tells us, “The Lord gives wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prv 2:6). Jesus, who is God, invites us to learn from him because he is meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29).
In awe of God
St. Augustine, a great scholar of the Church, recognized the restlessness of the heart until it rests in God. St. Thomas Aquinas, a great philosopher and theologian, conceded that he could not explain everything about God who remains a mystery forever. St. Therese of Lisieux chose the little way to love God, and yet, she became a great saint of the Church.
St. Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the source of all his teachings came from humbly kneeling before God in prayer, which he called “Theology of Kneeling.” We are so small in the vastness of knowledge. We should be humble about what we know, for we can never know everything. Only God can.
How do we achieve knowledge in the heart? We turn information into transformation. We must take what we know in our heads, put it into our hearts, and generate action, so that people can see and believe. We must be transformed first in order to transform others. In the process, we are required to be humble before God, the all-knowing Transformer. We depend on God, who is the source of all knowledge.
We should ask ourselves three questions. The first one is whether the knowledge we have is the knowledge of love: Do I truly love learning? Do I wholeheartedly treasure what I learn? Am I willing to take action, using what I learn?
The second question is whether the knowledge we have has the power to transform: Do I allow myself to be transformed by the good things I learn? Do I try to become a witness of God’s love for others through what I learn?
The third question is whether the knowledge we have is the knowledge of humility: Am I humble enough to recognize that I am not the best and I cannot know everything? Am I humble enough to acknowledge my limitations in order to rely on God?
St. Arnold Janssen, the founder the Divine Word Missionaries, wrote, “I would be glad if the Lord would send to our Society priests who are able to achieve something in academic fields. But they must be good men; otherwise, I would prefer to do without.”
If we are well-educated with high degrees without being good people, can we move people’s hearts? Only knowledge from the heart has the power to move another person’s heart. We need knowledge, which leads us to love, transformation and humility.
Joseph Huy Nguyen graduated from Divine Word College in May 2019. Currently, he is a novice at Techny. From August until next summer, he and his fellow novices are in formation, discerning God’s call to the religious life. This reflection is adapted from the 2019 Divine Word College commencement speech that he delivered as class valedictorian.