“God …gives men an enduring witness to Himself in created realities (see Rom. 1:19-20).” (DV 3)
Just on our own, our intellect is capable of coming to some knowledge of God, such as that God is all powerful, all knowing and present everywhere. But because of sin it is a struggle to come to a proper understanding. To accept these truths of God is always an act of faith. Though there are many ways to come to knowledge of God just by using our reason alone God reveals himself to us so we can have a proper knowledge of him. Reason and faith work together to perfect our knowledge and experience of God.
Reason “Man's faculties (intellect) make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God.” (CCC 35)
Faith: “… faith is not opposed to reason.” (CCC 35)
To Israel God “taught this people to acknowledge Himself the one living and true God (DV 3). Amongst others who worshipped many gods, the nation of Israel recognized that God is one. Through Abraham we have the start of a particular historical revelation that is passed on and deepened through the actions and words of God to the prophets and people of Israel. These promises/covenants of God are not lost, because God is always faithful. This revelation prepares us for the fullness of revelation, Jesus.
When Jesus was born people got to see what God was like. God is most fully revealed in Jesus because Jesus is God. Jesus is the fullness of all revelation. To see Jesus is to see God. Jesus is also the way we come to know that revelation. So he is also the messenger of the revelation. Jesus is the message and the messenger. “Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation.” (DV 2)
This revelation of God is passed onto us through Scripture and Tradition. Tradition came first. We used the word “Tradition” to describe everything that was passed on by Jesus to the Church, particularly to the apostles. The criteria to be an apostle was to have witnessed what Jesus had said and done since he was baptised by John (Acts 1:21-22) . Some of this Tradition was written down in the Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as the scriptures. But the rest of the Tradition continues to be passed on generation to generation.
“Sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity” (DV 9)
“Sacred Scripture is the word of God …. writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit” (DV 9)
The Scriptures is the Bible both Old and New Testaments. This Tradition and Scripture together make one collection called the deposit of revelation or the deposit of the Word of God. Our understanding of this deposit grows through time, but does not change in essence. Jesus gave the Church a special gift to keep its understanding of the Word of God on track until he comes again. This special gift is called the teaching office of the Church or Magisterium.
“Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God” (DV 10)
We can clearly see Jesus giving this gift to St Peter:
And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ (Matt 16: 17-19)
The Magisterium correctly interprets Scripture and Tradition, ie is able to give the correct way to understand Scripture passages or Catholic ways according to how God would want us to understand them. It usually does this by expressing teachings (also called doctrines or dogmas) about faith and morals.
“But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church Magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (DV 10)
We believe that God keeps communicating with the Church. The Magisterium is expressed in two special ways.
Firstly, the pope can proclaim a teaching (this is called an ‘Ex Cathedra’ teaching on faith and morals which means ‘from the chair’ of St. Peter and happens very rarely). The last Ex Cathedra teaching was the declaration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by pope Pius XII in 1950. What the pope says on a daily basis is not part of the Magisterium, but it still maybe infallible.
Secondly, the Bishops, in union with the Pope, can gather together and declare teaching on faith and morals at a council. The creed is an example of when all the bishops proclaimed a teaching at an ecumenical council.
These two ways give Catholics (and the world) infallible teachings about God that express truths of the Word of God passed on through the centuries. The truth does not change, it is just expressed better.
To maintain God’s revelation through the centuries, you must have all three elements, Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. It is like a three legged stool. If one leg is missing it falls over.
“Sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church (Magisterium), in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others.” (DV 10)
In heaven we will be totally fulfilled since we will see God as he is which is called the beatific vision.
“The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion.” (CCC 1045)
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12)
Our understanding of God is limited on earth. What we see is ‘dim’ compared to the reality. It is called a reflection since we don’t see God face to face, but get to know him through his effects, what is in Scripture, in the lives of the saints, etc, and even in our own life and our hearts. All that we truly yearn for will be satisfied in heaven when we see God face to face which is called the beatific vision.
We yearn for intimacy in this life. In heaven we will be fully filled with God’s goodness and love. It is more than we could ever ask for or imagine.
This ‘vision’ is not just that we will look at God, but will be transformative of ourselves. It will fill us in such a way, we won’t want anything else. All the good things of this earth come from God. We will get to see and experience that infinite goodness itself.
But what is so good about heaven? What makes heaven so good is God's infinite love. God shares all of Himself with us, not just part of himself. All of God’s infinite goodness, truth and love is ours in heaven. There is no end to all of that giving of God. God is the source of all the goodness that you desire. Think of anything good that you desire and realise that that goodness comes from God and he has an infinite amount of it that he wants to share with you. Let’s take one analogy. Imagine your favourite food. In your first day in heaven God gives you that food. Then the next day he gives you something better. Since God is infinite he can keep on giving you a better food every day for infinity. Heaven is never boring. Remember this is just an analogy and the reality of heaven is infinitely better than this.