The Progression of Faith

As Catholics, we have a Profession of Faith which states all of our core beliefs (CCC 14), but to understand this faith, accept it, and truly believe requires a long “progression” of faith. God in his infinite wisdom inspired the writing of the Bible over thousands of years (CCC 106). As each new book was written and compiled, God slowly added more to the deposit of faith (CCC 84). In the beginning, humanity had a very simple understanding of the world. As humanity progressed, it learned the world was much more complex than it seemed. If someone had gone back to the time of Adam & Eve and explained how the Internet worked, the people would not have believed such a thing could even be possible on the planet Earth. In these present times we are able to believe because we can use the Internet but also because we have this foundation of history and science. We learn enough in school that we might not understand every detail of how it works, but it’s at least plausible to us. It’s the same with our Catholic beliefs.

The first humans had only a basic understanding of the faith. In the time of Adam & Eve, the people only knew God existed and that he created the world and all it’s inhabitants (Gen 1:1-27). They didn’t know anything else. In Noah’s time, God taught humanity about punishment when the flood wiped out most of the population (Gen 6:7-8). In Abaham’s time, God taught humanity about obedience when Abraham trusted God that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars (Gen 22:12,16-18). A big revelation for the Israelites was the Ten Commandments God provided to Moses (Ex 20:1-17).

God knew humanity could not understand the deposit of faith from the beginning. It took generations to absorb and believe a new teaching. When humanity had enough of a foundation, God taught them a little bit more about the faith. This has gone on throughout history. It took thousands of years for humanity to be ready to know Jesus. Not everyone was ready (Jn 6:60-71) but enough to spread the Good News that God had sent his Son to save us. Belief in the Holy Spirit came next. In the Macedonianism heresy some Christians stumbled on the belief that the Holy Spirit was co-eternal with the Father and Son.

Belief in the Catholic Church was another new thing that had to be accepted. To this day there are millions of Christians who don’t believe in the authority of the Catholic Church. Even with belief in the Church, another development to accept was the belief that the Church could know, without a doubt, that a holy person is in heaven (CCC 828). Many people don’t believe in this. It’s a hard teaching, but when they can believe it, they have improved their understand of the overall Christian faith. There are countless teachings that I could go into when they were added to the deposit of faith, but it would be the length of an encyclopedia to go through it all. Instead, I end with where the progression of faith ends: Private Revelation.

The deposit of faith contains the entire truth, so belief in private revelation is optional (CCC 66-67). It can be something as amazing as a vision or as simple as a small insight into the faith after reading the Bible. Whatever the case, Catholics are not bound to believe private revelation because, for the most part, we can’t verify it is true. In rare cases, the Church has identified certain private revelation as being supernatural in origin. When that happens a holy person, such as a pope or saint might believe in and profess it to be true. It’s still private revelation, but over hundreds of years and a long line of affirmative belief, it can almost become a de-facto part of Church teaching. Catholics are still not bound to believe it, but there comes to be a sort of consensus among all Catholics that it is true (CCC 67). We have examples of this primarily in the appearances of Mary, such as Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes.

Much like how I wouldn’t be able to understand an advanced math book unless I had a long and proper foundation in math, humanity could not understand the path to eternal life if God had simply thrown down a book in the beginning with everything we needed to know. It was just too complex. Humanity had to understand and believe in one teaching before God could reveal another teaching. Because of our human limitations, it took thousands of years for the human race as a whole to progress in this understanding and belief. God is eternal though. He patiently revealed more when humanity was able.

Because of writing and books in modern times, we can read and learn much faster than those in the past, but it still takes time to absorb the knowledge and wisdom of God. Every believer is on their own faith journey. It takes some people their whole life to understand the truth while others might understand in just a few years. We all need to be patient with ourselves on this journey, reading, studying, and praying to continue learning. We also need to be patient with others.

They first have to believe that God existed, he was all powerful and created everything. Once they believe that, they can learn to obey his teachings. Only after that is known can they believe in Jesus Christ, the Son, and all his teachings. The Holy Spirit comes next, how it is everywhere and in everyone constantly urging good deeds. This is the place where many Christians are because the next step is believing in the Catholic Church. There is this human institution, the Church, that Jesus promised would stay true to his Way for all time (Mt 16:18). Once they believe in the Church, they can trust its authority and obey its teachings. This allows them to trust to the Church when it names the many saints throughout history that are now in heaven.

At the very end, they might have a personal belief in some private revelation, maybe their own or something they learned from others. This belief is does not supercede or contradict the Bible or the Church but instead supplements what they already know with more insight (CCC 67). This is where I am now. I understand and believe everything the Bible and Church teach, but I also sometimes gain insights. I write these down on this blog in case anyone else finds them insightful as I do.

Even with our modern technologies, deposit of faith is a lot to believe in, as the apostles made clear when they questioned Jesus (Jn 6:60). Not everyone learns at the same rate. You might know the whole truth about a particular teaching, but others may not. Do your best to lead them to the truth, but be patient with them just as you are with yourself. Don’t get frustrated if it’s taking awhile for them to move past an obstacle. They are on their own faith journey. Sometimes we have to leave it up to God. Always be a supporting presence in their life, ready to help whenever they have questions, and you will be fulfilling your obligation to spread the faith to them.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

What Heaven Will Be Like

So much of what is written about the Catholic faith is about what not to do. I am guilty of this myself. Every Catholic that decides to take up their cross on the narrow road is confronted with the question of how to replace the bad with the good. We all have sins as well as imperfections, so the focus is many times directed at what changes to make to remove the sin and improve imperfections. This is one of the primary reasons I started this website, but sometimes it’s good to take a break from all these dark things and look into the light. Last Friday, I wrote about What Hell Will Be Like. Today, I write about What Heaven Will Be Like.

I have always wondered about heaven because it is hard to imagine a place with complete happiness and no suffering. We have the facts about heaven, that it will be eternal (CCC 1023), satisfy all our desires (CCC 1024), and contain God, Jesus, the angels, Mary, and the rest of the saints (CCC 1024). The real questions then are, “what will it look like?” and “how it will it feel?” This is one of the many mysteries in our faith, but I have a theory.

On the day of our final judgment, we know all the dead will be resurrected (CCC 990). We also know a new earth will be created that is merged with heaven (CCC 1023-1024). Based on this, I believe we, with our physical bodies, will experience heaven very much like our current earth. The big difference will be no one will commit any sins. The entire planet (or universe even) will be heaven. Since no more reproduction will happen, we won’t have to worry about overpopulation or climate change. The new earth will have more than enough space for everyone.

Because heaven will include a new earth, we will be able to glorify and praise God through our creative works. That means people will be able to create books, music, movies, and anything else we can imagine, all honoring God. We will have some work to do, but it will not be a burden (CCC 378). The work won’t tire us but be refreshing. We will enjoy it so much that even when we have to follow God’s commands, we will be happy. Part of our duties for God will be worshipping him. Maybe God will command us to worship him a certain number of hours per day, including certain preparations and rituals, much like the Catholic Mass on earth. The rest of the day we will worship God through the tending of his creation on earth, appreciation of his creation, or work with it to create our own new things that reflect our Creator. Everything we do will be an offering to God.

Because God will be everywhere, he will always be with us. Our connection to God will be much better than any connection we have with people on earth. Here on earth God usually feels distant. We can pray to God but we are usually unable to feel his presence. In this new heaven and earth, God will basically always be at our side. Our relationship with God will be stronger than our relationships with anyone else. God will become the love of our eternal life. Everything we do will be with God, much like how a married couple many times does everything together. We will still have our relationships from the “old” earth, but God will always be more important. In other words, some of our free time might be spent with other people, but God will be at our side 100% of the time.

Even though we will interact with other people, God will always be more important. This might seem impossible if you compare it to marriage on earth. No matter how much a married couple loves each other, they still occasionally need time away from each other. That’s because people have to spend time away working or doing errands. They also commit sins, sometimes requiring one person to get away for awhile. One difference in heaven will be that we won’t have anything like work keeping us from God because he is everywhere. Another will be God is perfect, so we won’t ever want to get away from him. We will always be completely satisfied with God’s love for us.

Since God is eternal, we will never completely know God (CCC 356). Our relationship will become deeper and deeper the longer we are in heaven. This will bring its own joy in addition to all the blessings of the new earth. Remember how your relationships with your spouse, children, relatives, or friends have deepened over the years. It will be the same with God, only the relationship will continue to deepen for all eternity. Every day you will learn something new about God, so everyday you will look forward to spending more time with him.

We will be able to ask God any questions we have about the world or God himself. Because we are finite, we won’t have the mental capacity to understand everything (CCC 300), but we will be able to understand little pieces of the complete reality at one time before forgetting it when God enlightens us as to some other part of reality. In addition, God will have knowledge of the entire human history, so we will be able to ask him anything about any point in history on old earth. Maybe he will even tell us the history of the new earth. Unlike God, we can’t be everywhere at once. Things will happen on the new earth that we won’t know about.

Along with the new earth will come a new universe of planets. This will be needed because there will be billions upon billions of souls in heaven over thousands of years of human history on old earth. There will be enough habitable planets for everyone. God will give us the technology or the knowledge to travel through space, so we will be able to visit people on other planets. We will also be able to explore the “hostile” planets to take resources or just tour them.

Another major benefit of heaven will be not having to live with any illness, disease, or suffering (CCC 400). We will still sleep in heaven — that’s how God made our bodies — but we will sleep perfectly every night. We will wake up completely refreshed, never sick. We will have lots of energy. It might be possible to get injured, but God will heal us instantly. Also, God will prevent us from dying via environmental hazards like a large fall. We will have no worry about exploring our planet or the universe. It will just be fun all the time.

Another bonus of heaven will be peace (CCC 715). There will be no conflicts or wars. We won’t have any worries or fears in heaven, only good times after good times. There may be ups and downs in terms of how good it is, but it will always be good. In your own life you might have some really, really good memories like the birth of a child, but also just good memories of family vacations. One memory might be more good than the other, but they are still both good memories.

One of the best things about heaven will be its eternity (CCC 459). We will have all these good things, and it will never end. How amazing is that? Whatever project or idea you have, no matter how ambitious, will be complete eventually. You will have both the resources and the time to complete it. Sure, we might have to dedicate time each day to worship God or do other work he commands, but in the long run there will be an infinite amount of free time to finish that project. Over time, as people explore they will get to see all the amazing works people have created. With infinite time, people will be able to step away from creating to just explore as long as they want. They won’t ever have that conflicted feeling of making progress in their projects or enjoying themselves in God’s creation.

For all these reasons, I am eagerly awaiting heaven. Like many of the saints, I am sometimes impatient and want to be in heaven now. I’ve sort of been “helped” by having a lot of health problems. My life on earth rarely ever approaches anything peaceful because I am always suffering one way or another. There are still some things I’d like to achieve on earth, but I am continually motivated by this theory of heaven. It’s very possible that my theory is completely wrong. My theory makes sense logically to me, but no matter what, we are assured we will be happy for all eternity.

Last week, I wrote about the horrible suffering those in hell will experience. This week, I wrote about the amazing pleasure those in heaven will experience. I hope that in reading about heaven you have come to understand what God has in store for us. I hope it has excited you so much that you don’t want to imagine not going to heaven because this is the reality: We either go to heaven or we go to hell. There is no other option. For me, it’s an easy choice which place I want to be. The journey may be tough, but I want to be in heaven. I hope you want the same thing.

Lent is coming up pretty soon. Take the time to do a good examination of you. During Lent, you will probably go to confession to ask forgiveness for your sins, but this week think about more than just sin. Think about all the good in you plus all the bad. Then think about how you will shine the light of your goodness while cleansing all the bad from your body. Some of those changes will be about reducing sin, but others will be shining your light, the good things about you, on the world.

The peace of the Lord be with you always,
Jared