The StoryIn the beginning was God. He is self-sufficient, perfectly complete in the family of Persons who are the Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, each totally pouring themselves out to the others. God does not need anyone or anything else, and nothing else exists, because God is the Original Essence, the Original Being. But, out of His superabundant love, He decides to create.
He creates angels, gives them vast knowledge and power, and gives them freedom. Why? Because He wanted to. He doesn't create out of need. He creates out of love. All that exists He holds in existence from moment to moment, holding them in His mind. The freedom He gives His creatures, the angels, is abused by some of them. The moment each angel is brought into existence, each can choose to love God or not. Each knows perfectly well the full outcome of its choice from the first instance of its existence, and each chooses freely. Most choose to love. Some choose not to love. That is the fall of the angels.
Then Time began, for He also created the rest of the universe and us.We are unique in a special way. We are neither completely spirit, as the angels are, nor completely material, as the animals are. We are indissolubly both spirit and material being. Together, spirit and material being form our human nature. Our spirit-soul holds our bodies together and keeps those bodies working in their inter-related parts. We are made to participate, body and soul, in His divine life. We are made to be loved for all Eternity. That has been the plan from the beginning. He gave us freedom, just as He gave the angels freedom. Unlike the angels, we are not given a vast intellect. God created us to trust in Him. While we were not capable of understanding the full implications of our choice, either for good or ill, we had presentiments and warnings.
This is the Chain of Being - God creates on every level. Thus, He creates beings with full knowledge of their own destiny from the moment of their existence (angels), He creates beings which grow into knowledge of their own destiny (men), beings with a purely spiritual existence (angels), beings with an unbreakable unity of spirit and material existence (men), and beings with a purely material existence (everything else), having varying degrees of purely natural knowledge (apes down to non-sentient things like rocks).
Within men, there are also gradations of knowledge. Some men are given a great knowledge and love of God and never lose it. Others are given only a partial knowledge of God which they must build up painfully with His help. Others still are given very little knowledge of Him, and must struggle on without a full sense of love. To each who is given a different burden, God gives different gifts. In order to know God as God wants us to know Him, we must have not just natural knowledge, but supernatural knowledge, Divine Revelation. Such knowledge can only be a free gift from God - it cannot be discovered by man. This Divine Revelation is available only through Scripture and the sacramental life.
Thus, even someone who has not ever heard the Gospel may be saved, as long as their lack of knowledge derives from the terrible cross of an invincible ignorance and does not derive from a conscious decision to reject God, a conscious decision not to love. God gives to each sufficient knowledge and grace to improve themselves before Him, to learn to love, to learn about Him. Each is called to love God and neighbor more than they do now. No one who condemns themselves through their rejection of Love will be able to say to God, "You didn't give me enough help to know You," but each may know God in a lesser or greater way, according to the gifts they were given. Insofar as each responds well to His gifts, each may be saved.
In Adam, we were given the choice to share in Eternal Love and Eternal Life. Adam refused the gift of divine, eternal Love, both as a result of temptation from the evil angels who had refused that same Love and just out of poor choice on our part. Since God existed out of time, and we exist in time, He knew what we would do, and the very act which brought the created universe into existence, the universe which we were supposed to rule and guard, also brought into existence His plan for our salvation from sin and our divinization.
Thus, as soon as the Fall happened, God promised Adam that salvation would come. Over the course of time after Adam's fall, He gradually revealed Himself to fallen man, and gathered together the people necessary for the plan to take root and grow. He gave us prophecies, He gave us promises, He made covenant with us, He taught us how to be a family. Down through the long corridors of the ages, He let us know what was going to happen by revealing a bit, letting us absorb it, revealing a bit more, letting us absorb it, over and over, each time revealing a bit more of who He is, building up the links of our salvation for us in the people of the earth, people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the lives of each of us on the earth, lives like yours.
In the fullness of time, the fullness of revelation was prepared. He prepared a place for Himself, a place in which He would begin the final, the total revelation. He had revealed His word through the patriarchs and the prophets of old, now He prepared to enter creation not just in a place, but through a person, through the person of Mary. Because He respects free will always, He gave her complete freedom, a freedom as complete as Adam's, and asked if she would agree to His plan. She agreed, in a free choice just like Adam's, to His love and His plan. At the instant of her "fiat," He clothed Himself in humanity, infinite power telescoped into a fertilized egg, taking His human nature from the mother He created for Himself and instantly uniting His eternally pre-existing divine nature to His same person newly formed in the womb. In that instant, He also united Himself in a mysterious way to every human being who ever has or ever will live. This unity allowed Him to take on our sins, and allows us to become part of His Body, part of God's Family, if we so choose. Slowly he grew, was born, grew more, learned, lived, loved. Over the course of thirty-three years, He revealed Himself to a few chosen men and women. This is the central mystery - why would God do this? Who is man to merit it?
It is insanity, from a human point of view.
First they knew Him as a man like them. Then they knew Him as a teacher, a unique teacher who taught with complete authority and called twelve men out of obscurity, teaching in ways and doing things unlike any teacher that Israel had ever seen. He did things they didn't understand, He said things they couldn't comprehend. After each dispute with the learned, each miraculous cure, the same question returned: "Where did he learn to do and say these things? Where did this man come from?" No one knew. But He was not only their teacher. They learned to love Him as they had loved no one else. At the end, He became their friend.
But those who could not bring themselves to love Him also could not bring themselves to let Him walk among them. He was put to death. He knew it would happen from the beginning. He had prepared His friends for it. He was ready.
He rose from death.
His closest friends didn't believe it. Despite all the reports, the women, the disciples, even the witness of Apostles could not convince the last holdout. Each one knew. They knew that no man could rise from the dead. Then He appeared to them. He brought the fruits of His love with Him - redemption, salvation, the opportunity to choose Eternal love forever. He had already established a Church to be His family on earth, to dispense the mystery of salvation to men, to be the kingdom of God, to be the Body of Christ. In the forty days following His Resurrection, He taught the men He had picked, the men He had clothed with special power, as they had never before been taught. He completed their preparation. They were made ready to take their places in His Body, His Church. This Body, born on the Cross, came of age on Pentecost. Fifty days after He rose from the dead, fifty days after His Body was torn and crucified, His body, the body of salvation, conceived in the womb of Mary and nurtured by Him over the next thirty-three years, given birth on the Cross, announced Her place in the world when the Spirit came down in tongues of fire upon Her members. United to His Son's Bride, His Body, new sons and daughters of the Most High were added every day. The family of God began to grow.
The growing family spread the Word about the God who is Love, the God who suffers for us, the God who saves. In time, they wrote the last pieces of the millenia-long story down, acting under the guidance of God. Even as they wrote, God continued to reveal aspects of Himself to the Apostles through the work of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Finally, John, the last living Apostle, died, and with his death, God's work of revelation was complete. There remained only two tasks: teaching the truth to all who would hear, and giving all human beings a chance to become a part of the Body of Christ.
The earliest Christians are called the Fathers of the Church, because they were taught by divinely inspired Apostles, and were often themselves apostles, placed in that office by the Holy Spirit, acting through the Body of Christ. They used their teachers' wisdom and the inspiration of the Spirit to plumb the depths of God's Word, bringing back truly incredible insights into the nature of God. The age of Christendom dawned, an age when a whole civilization, covering more territory than even the mighty Roman Empire of old, spoke with one heart, moved with one being, loved with one love, all directed towards God. Throughout it all, God provided saints to be our guides. Eventually, disputes arose and the unity was fractured, but God continued to provide saints to guide us back to unity. That process continued and continues in the councils of the Church and the work of individual hands. Unity will again be attained, for God's Body will suffer only so long.
In every age, at every moment in history, He supplies His Body with the nutrients it needs, sacraments, grace, living examples of love, holy men and women who feed the poor, clothe the naked, care for the sick, instruct the uninformed, who show forth His love. Mother Theresa was just the latest in a long line. He asks each of us to be an example of Eternal love to every person we meet. He asks you to be an example of Eternal love. He loves people through you. That is what it means to be part of His family. At every moment of your life, you choose to be part of His family or you choose to reject His family and His love. This choice is rooted in how you love others, how you love Him. This choice to love is not a one-time experience, but a continuum of choice, every moment, every second. We are free. We can reject Him up to the very last, if we desire. We can turn and repent at the very last. God is never far from us, He is always near, pouring out love upon us so that we might choose Him, because God is love, and He can do nothing other than to love us.
He will come again. He will judge each of us by how well we loved, whether we loved Him first, most, best, and whether we allowed Him to use us to love the people around us. If we have loved others well, we will be brought into the heavenly Jerusalem and an eternal life bathed in the consuming fire of Love. That is heaven. If we have chosen not to love, we have chosen an eternity apart from Him, apart from Love. That eternity will be spent with those who chose not love, but hate. That is hell. It is our choice.
This is the story of Scripture.
This is how it works.
This is the story it tells.
There are many details that have been omitted here, many names, many living proofs of His love. Each lifetime of history has its prophets, its saints, the living examples of love who are God's beacons to you and to me, His light shining forth from their eyes, His touch in their caress. Scripture is complete, but it is only the beginning of the story.