Saint John of the Cross taught that wisdom only enters the person when the person starts by living out the greatest commandment of love.

The human person possesses the supernatural virtue of charity through Baptism. When a person is baptized, the person receives the Holy Spirit, and what is called sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace means the gifts that make the person holy through the indwelling of the Trinity and the activity of the Holy Spirit in the person. Charity is one supernatural virtue of the person that allows the person in cooperation with the indwelling God to love God for His sake and the person’s neighbor for God’s sake.

Wisdom here is knowing how things are ordered to God and to each other and to yourself. Charity helps a person engage with God and neighbor properly with as little self-love as possible. Both of these are necessary for a person to grow in his or her relationship with God.

Wisdom is not just for a holy person in the sense that someone who seems to be further than another in a relationship with God. Wisdom identifies how to respond to things because the wise person knows how things relate to him or herself, each other, within each other, and ultimately to God.

Replacing selfishness and sin with wisdom and charity

Saint John of the Cross’s teaching here shows how easy it is for a person to not have wisdom and love due to sin and selfishness. Sin is the opposite of charity. Saint John of the Cross repeatedly teaches that sin and God are contraries and are not compatible in any way at all.

A person benefits greatly by focusing on growing in charity since Saint John of the Cross teaches it is one of the crucial things necessary for growth in wisdom. Growth in wisdom helps a person rightly act towards and rightly understand both things of this world and things about God. A person who grows in wisdom sees in him or herself where the disorder is and starts to work on re-ordering him or herself back to God. If a person’s actions are charitable, the person seeks the good of another for God’s sake, so wisdom naturally flows into the person to rightly order his or her acts towards all things.

A wise person relates properly to others

Furthermore, wisdom helps a person relate properly to others, not just him or herself. Too often a person forgets the second part of the greatest commandment in lieu of thinking that only the first really matters. While the first part matters, what follows naturally from the first part is the second part. For example, a person can love a neighbor in a generous way, but without charity, the person cannot love in a supernaturally charitable way.

Many times we associate the word “charity” with social causes. Again, while social causes could have people engaging in charitable acts, charities are not the supernatural virtue of a human person. All charity starts with the human person, who baptized and working to root out sin and vice, becomes closer and closer to God by doing His Will each day.

A person will see plenty of fruit in his or her life as charity grows along with wisdom.

The fruit of Wisdom is Charity

Naturally, as a consequence, all of us need to identify where we are not properly ordered to God, to things, and to ourselves. This first step of examining our conscience and paying attention in prayer will help us to see the first steps in growing in charity so we can grow in wisdom. Once you identify your own first step(s), you start tackling each issue day by day so that you end up growing cumulatively in wisdom and charity.

Pray to the Holy Spirit for an increase in the gift of Wisdom. Wisdom is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and love is its fruit.


One way to live this out in a person’s life is to focus less on sayings of people who are not holy. All of us could benefit from more time with Scripture and the writings of the Saints rather than the news and the latest whatever.

How to learn more

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