Many people of various religious affiliations assume that religion is strictly a human activity. What Jesus said over and over again, is that God is in love with each one of us. If he’s really in love with us, he will want us to know that, in the hope that we will love him back. The idea that God actively tries to communicate with human beings is called revelation. Revelation is: God’s self-disclosure (self-revealing) to the human race. He does this because He wants us to love Him for who He really is. God,
who creates and conserves all things by his Word, provides men with constant evidence of himself in created realities. And furthermore, wishing to open up the way to heavenly salvation – he manifested himself to our first parents from the very beginning.”He invited them to intimate communion with himself and clothed them with resplendent grace and justice.
God’s revelation was not broken off by our first parents’ sin. After the fall, God buoyed them up with the hope of salvation, by promising redemption; and he has never ceased to show his solicitude for the human race. For he wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing. Throughout the Old Testament the theme of “seeking the face of God” is ever present, so that the Hebrew term panîm(MYNP))))) which means “face”, occurs no less than 400 times, 100 of which refer to God, it means to see the face of God. Yet the Jewish religion, by forbidding all images, since God cannot be depicted – as instead occurred among their neighbors with the worship of idols; therefore, with this prohibition of imagery, the Old Testament seems to totally exclude “seeing” from worship and piety. What does it mean then, for the pious Israelite, to seek the face of God, while recognizing that there can be no image of Him? The question is important: on the one hand, it is said that God cannot be reduced to an object, to a simple image, nor can anything be put in the place of God; on the other, however, it is affirmed that He has a face, that is, He is a “You” that can enter into a relationship, who isn’t closed in his Heavens looking down upon humanity. God is certainly above all things, but he turns to us, hears us, sees and speaks, makes covenants, is capable of love. The history of salvation is history of God with humanity, it is the history of this relationship of God who progressively reveals himself to man, letting him see his face.
Something completely new happens, however, with the incarnation. The search for the face of God undergoes an unthinkable change, because now this face can be seen: that of Jesus, the Son of God who became man. In Him the path of God’s revelation finds fulfilment, which began with the call of Abraham; He is the fullness of this revelation because he is the Son of God, he is both “the mediator and fullness of all revelation” (DV,2), and in Him the content of Revelation and the Revealer coincide. Jesus shows us the face of God and makes known to us the name of God. In the priestly prayer at the Last Supper, He says to the Father: “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world … I made your name known to them” (Jn 17:6,26). The expression “name of God” means God as He who is present among men. To Moses at the burning bush, God had revealed his name, had made it possible to invoke him, had given a concrete sign of his “existence” among men. All this finds fulfilment and completeness in Jesus: He inaugurates a new way of God’s presence in history, because he who sees Him, sees the Father, as he says to Philip (Jn 14:9). Christianity – says Saint Bernard – is the “religion of the Word of God”; not, however, “a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word” In the Patristic and Medieval traditions, a special formula is used to express this reality: Jesus is the Verbum abbreviatum (Rom 9:28, Is 10:23), he is the short, abbreviated and substantial Word of the Father, who has told us everything about Him. In Jesus the whole Word is present.
Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, sent ‘as a man to men’, ‘speaks the words of God’ (Jn 3:34), and completes the work of salvation which his Father gave him to do (Jn 5:36; 17:4). To see Jesus is to see his Father (Jn 14:9). For this reason, Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making himself present and manifesting himself: through his words and deeds, his signs and wonders, but especially through his death and glorious resurrection from the dead and finally with the sending of the Spirit of truth, he completed and perfected revelation and confirmed it with divine testimony. The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away, and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim 6:14, Tit 2:13.)
The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries. The theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, which would be complementary to that found in other religions, is contrary to the Church’s faith. Such a position would claim to be based on the notion that the truth about God cannot be grasped and manifested in its globality and completeness by any historical religion, neither by Christianity nor by Jesus Christ.
Such a position is in radical contradiction with the foregoing statements of Catholic faith according to which the full and complete revelation of the salvific mystery of God is given in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the words, deeds, and entire historical event of Jesus, though limited as human realities, have nevertheless the divine Person of the Incarnate Word, “true God and true man” as their subject. For this reason, they possess in themselves the definitiveness and completeness of the revelation of God’s salvific ways, even if the depth of the divine mystery in itself remains transcendent and inexhaustible. The truth about God is not abolished or reduced because it is spoken in human language; rather, it is unique, full, and complete, because he who speaks and acts is the Incarnate Son of God. Thus, faith requires us to profess that the Word made flesh, in his entire mystery, who moves from incarnation to glorification, is the source, participated but real, as well as the fulfilment of every salvific revelation of God to humanity, and that the Holy Spirit, who is Christ’s Spirit, will teach this “entire truth” (Jn 16:13) to the Apostles and, through them, to the whole Church.
In Jesus even the mediation between God and man finds its fullness. In the Old Testament, there is a host of figures who have performed this task, particularly Moses, the deliverer, the guide, the “mediator” of the covenant, as also the New Testament defines him (Gal 3:19; Acts 7:35, Jn 1:17). Jesus, true God and true man, is not simply one of the mediators between God and man, he is “the mediator” of the new and everlasting covenant (Heb 8:6; 9:15, 12:24); “For there is one God”, Paul says, “and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2:5, Gal 3:19-20). In Him we see and meet the Father; in Him we can invoke God as “Abbà, Father”; in Him we are given salvation.
Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such “revelations”.
As Christians we proclaim our belief in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, God’s ultimate revelation to us and as God. Thus we proclaim that human beings are in their deepest identity and dignity oriented toward God: their ultimate and only fulfilment consists in communion with God and with other men and women in God. But human beings are also divided beings, within themselves and from one another, because of the impact of sin upon them—personal, social, and original sin. And they cannot free themselves from sin, the internal and external divisions that afflict them and the alienation from God and religious ignorance this involves. They need God’s loving forgiveness and God’s enablement to turn themselves to put God first in their lives. God freely gives us the gift to liberate us from domination by sin, division, and alienation from God and to enable us to live by our deepest dignity through communion with God and others. He chose to offer us this gift through Jesus Christ living and active in the world today by his word and Spirit—the same Jesus Christ who lived, died, and rose in Palestine some two thousand years ago. Jesus is the way God lovingly and freely chose to give us salvation, and it is through a living belief in him that we gain this salvation.