The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself (CCC 27). And God does not leave man alone in this desire! Today we will look at how God comes to meet man! Last week we looked at Natural Revelation; today we head out-of-this-world into the beyond... Divine Revelation!
Ever catch yourself looking up at the sky, wondering if anyone is up there? The seeking, the wondering, the searching, the desiring... that wasn't exactly your idea. God calls man first (CCC 2567). We see this drama between God and Man play out in the greatest love story every written... the Sacred Scriptures! You want Drama? Heartbreak? Violence? Cat fights? Miracles? Puppies? Slaughter of enemies? Romance? Rainbows? There's a Bible verse for that. Before we can get into what is the Bible and where it came from, we have to talk about today's topic: Divine Revelation. The Scriptures reveal to us truths about God that we never could have come to on our own... we only know these truths because God has revealed them. As Dei Verbum so beautifully puts it: “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them (DV, 21)." God coming down and speaking is pretty direct and pretty helpful to those of us who were getting a neck-ache from all of that sky-gazing.
By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation (Cf. Dei Filius). Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men. God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit (CCC 50, emphasis added).
Well that's pretty neat, but why does God reveal Himself? Isn't He really into being kind of mysterious and... Godlike?
It pleases Him [Dei Verbum, Vatican II (1965), 2].
He wants to communicate His divine life (CCC 52).
He wishes to make man capable of responding to Him, of knowing Him, and of loving Him far beyond his own natural capacity (CCC 52).
How--human. Same image, no? We reveal things about ourselves to those we want to grow in relationship with... it pleases us to talk about ourselves, to show our kindness, our benevolence, our mercy, our triumphs. When we want to get to know people we share more than we would with just some stranger on the street. We open up about times we have been rejected, or when we were jealous, disappointed, or had some Old Testamentlike anger. For someone to know us we have to reveal something. God wanted Man, his beloved creation, to know Him. And by knowing Him, capable of loving Him. Because to know Him is to love Him. (Because He is Love itself.) That was a little too much for us in our natural capacities, so God gave us a little divine help.
How does God Reveal Himself? (Spoiler alert: check out CCC 53.)
In a lot of ways... His words and deeds are a pretty obvious start. But like any human relationship, it is not all at once. Can you imagine meeting someone new and saying, "Hello, my name is Aunt Katie, I was born on Tuesday, December 8th 19doesntmatter at 7:23PM... yada yada yada 30+ years of fabulous stories and invaluable insights yada yada yada... and this morning I had half and half in my coffee. What's your name?" No! No one reveals the whole plot and surprise ending on page one! God communicates himself to man gradually (CCC 53). The Old Testament didn't happen in a day, nor was it written in a day. The Lord moved through human history over centuries and millennia--divinely revealing His plan of loving goodness along the way all leading up to the great culmination, the ultimate Revelation Himself--Himself! Jesus Christ! And when Jesus does come into time at the fullness of time it is not only His Person that is a Revelation but His Mission as well.
We started Theology Thursdays with CCC 460, which talked about God's plan to make us partakers of the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4). How better for us to learn to partake, than for God to quite literally show us the way? St. Ireneaus of Lyons (c. 180) put the Incarnation, the ultimate Divine Revelation, this way, "The Word of God dwelt in man and became the Son of man in order to accustom man to perceive God and to accustom God to dwell in man, according to the Father's pleasure."
Our ability to come to relationship with God is only possible because God, in His generosity, decided to reveal Himself. Yet... this is a relationship we find pretty easy to ignore. Perhaps if He got an iPhone we'd be better at keeping in touch? Insta? Snap? The good news is that no matter how many times we ghost Him, or even when we just forget to call or text Him back (because, remember, He called us first), He does not give up on us. We're part of His story. It's already been written in our hearts. And this story is more compelling than the most binge-worthy series.
Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation (CCC 2567).