All modern cars have their horsepower regulated by a computer chip. This chip sets the amount of oxygen that mixes with the fuel. A mixture that is richer in fuel produces a higher horsepower than a mixture that has less fuel and more oxygen.
This means that two identical cars with identical motors could have a 10 to 20 percent difference in horsepower depending on the air-to-fuel ratio. Both cars are capable of the higher horsepower, but only one is taking advantage of this capability.
In a similar way, we were all created with the capacity to receive revelation from God—but that does not mean that we are taking full advantage of it. We can regulate and restrict ourselves so that we are not experiencing all the power that is available to us.
Created to Receive Revelation. As we said in our first article, God wants to reveal himself to us. He wants to give us his wisdom and guidance. In fact, it’s the way he made us, and it’s only because of sin that the lines of communication between God and his people were damaged.
Don’t you find it amazing that, rather than reject us when we turned away from him, God reached out to us? Through his Son Jesus, he restored us to himself. He restored our capacity for revelation. Through the gift of baptism, we are "born from above" and made capable once again of "seeing" the kingdom of God (John 3:3). We are made capable of living our lives on a deeper level, a level that includes the gift of revelation.
St. Paul once told the believers in Corinth: "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). This is a key distinction. Human understanding alone cannot grasp the full meaning—or glory—of God’s promises. It is only by revelation that these promises can come alive in our hearts and spark in us a desire to set aside our plans and embrace his instead.
It all sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Perhaps a little unrealistic as well? After all, how many of us can say we "hear" God when we pray? But Paul is not holding out unrealistic expectations. Rather, he is describing what we are capable of experiencing over time as we practice listening for God’s voice. His point also is to encourage us to examine our consciences on a regular basis to see if there is any unconfessed sin that may be hindering our openness to God’s revelation.
So let’s take a look at how God reveals himself to us.
The Revelation of Creation. Scripture tells us that "God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good" (Genesis 1:31). We can all see the wonders of creation. Everything around us and within us has the potential to put us in touch with the One who created it: the beauty of flowers, the majesty of the heavens, the fluid movements of our bodies, and the amazing capacity of our minds. All of these point to God and give us hints about the kind of Creator he is.
Creation is so powerful in its ability to reveal God that even those who are apposed to the Lord are said to have "no excuse" for their unbelief: "Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made" (Romans 1:20). It is just as the psalmist wrote: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder’s craft. One day to the next conveys that message; one night to the next imparts that knowledge. There is no word or sound; no voice is heard; yet their report goes forth through all the earth, their message, to the ends of the world" (Psalm 19:2-5).
Try to take some time this week to let the beauty of this created world speak to you. Stare up at the night sky. Take a walk through a garden, a forest, or a park. Contemplate the serenity and power of the oceans and rivers. Quiet your mind and watch as you are moved to humility and love for God. Isn’t it amazing that your great and awesome God has put on such a marvelous show of his glory . . . all to draw you closer to him?
God Is Revealed in Scripture. Scripture tells us that God is the one, only and living true God (John 17:3). It tells us that he is the first and the last (Isaiah 44:6); the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come (Revelation 1:8). It tells us that he is invisible, immortal, and eternal (Romans 1:20,23; 16:26). It tells us that nothing is impossible for God (Mark 10:27).
These attributes describe God’s greatness, but so many stories in Scripture show us God’s heart as well. Take the story of Moses and the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, for example. There we see God’s love and his desire to set his people free. Or look at the story of Pentecost in Acts 2. As we contemplate this great outpouring, we can see just how much God loves to fill us with his Spirit. And he didn’t stop there. The whole Book of Acts chronicles how God revealed himself to more and more people all over the world.
The Scriptures tell us about God. They tell who God is and how much he loves us. They tell us that God has a loving plan for his church. They tell us that our God is patient, rich in mercy, and quick to forgive. All these messages from Scripture have the power to change our lives when we take them to prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal their truths to us in the depths of our hearts. The article by Fr. James Martin on page 58 of this magazine spells out a very simple method by which we can open the Bible and begin to hear God’s own voice.
Revelation in Tradition. In addition to Creation and Scripture, God also reveals himself very powerfully through the Sacred Tradition of our church. "Tradition" here does not mean the way we pass down cherished rituals as a way of preserving our past. Rather, Tradition refers to the way Jesus entrusted his teachings to the apostles—teachings that the apostles then preserved and passed on to the next generation. It is this Tradition—as it is contained in the teachings, institutions, and practices of the church—that continues to minister to us today. When combined with the written words of Scripture, Tradition gives us a fuller picture of who God is, how he wants to pour his blessings upon us, and the life of holiness and peace that he calls us to live.
This teaching about Tradition is one of the greatest examples of the fact that revelation involves so much more than God just giving us information about himself. If God wanted to do only that, then all we would need is a Bible and a Catechism. But our Father wants a relationship with us. And just as a married couple reveal and express their love in many different ways, so too does our God. In the beauty of the liturgy and the intricacies of life in the church, in the grandeur of the mountains and the power of the oceans, and in the stories, poems, prayers, and teachings of the Bible—in all these ways, our Father calls out to us, inviting us to receive his life and his love.
The next time you hear about the Holy Father teaching some aspect of the gospel—or the next time you hear a homily from your parish priest—know that God is at work, ready to show you his face and draw you closer to him. The next time you attend a baptism or try to apply the church’s teachings on justice and peace, open the eyes of your heart and see what God may be trying to show you about his character. He is at work in so many ways, pouring out his revelation to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear!
Increasing Your Spiritual Horsepower. There is no reason why we should settle for a limited amount of "spiritual horsepower." Cars increase their horsepower by increasing the amount of fuel and decreasing the amount of oxygen. In a similar way, we can increase our spiritual horsepower by following John the Baptist’s example of decreasing our self-reliance and increasing our reliance on Jesus (John 3:30).
Jesus was heard by his Father because of his reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7-8). So it stands to reason that if we seek to model ourselves after Jesus—consumed more with God and less with ourselves—we too will find the mysteries of heaven revealed to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.