868. Can the future be revealed to human beings?
“As a rule, the future is hidden from them. It is only in rare and exceptional cases that God permits it to be revealed.”
869. Why is the future hidden from human beings?
“If they knew the future, they would ignore the present and would not act with the same freedom. They would be swayed by the thought that, if a specific event is to happen, there is no need to worry about it, or they would seek to prevent it. God did not want it to be this way, so that all people would contribute in the accomplishment of God’s designs, even those designs they would want to prevent. Therefore, you often prepare the way for the events that occur over the course of your lifetime, without even being aware of it.”
870. Since there is a practical reason why the future is hidden, why does God sometimes permit it to be revealed?
“Because in such cases this foreknowledge facilitates the accomplishment of what is to be, rather than hinder it, by making the persons to whom it is revealed act in a different manner than they would otherwise act. In addition, it is often a trial. The prospect of an event may awaken more or less honorable thoughts. For example, if individuals learn that they will receive an inheritance that they had not expected, they may be tempted by greed, by elation at the prospect of increasing their worldly pleasures, or by a desire for the death of their benefactor, so that they may obtain it sooner. On the other hand, this prospect may awaken good and generous thoughts in them. If the prediction is not fulfilled, it is a test of how they bear disappointment. They acquire the merit or reproach of the good or bad thoughts they have by their expectation of the event anticipated.”
871. God knows everything, including whether people will succeed or fail in a given trial. What is the purpose of this trial, since it shows God nothing that is not already known about those individuals? “You might as well ask why God did not create humans perfect (see no. 119), or why human beings have to experience childhood before arriving at adulthood (see no. 379). The purpose of a trial is not to enlighten God regarding the merit of humankind. God knows exactly what they are worth, but to make human beings fully accountable for their behavior since they have free will. People are free to choose between good and bad, and trials serve to tempt them or prove their resistance, leaving them all the merit for resisting it. Even though God knows well in advance whether they will succeed or not, out of divine justice God cannot reward or punish them other than according to the actions they have committed.” (See no. 258)
The same principle exists in the world of human beings. Regardless of the qualifications of a given group of candidates or our confidence in their success, no grade can be granted until the proper test has been passed. This is the same as with a judge who can condemns only accused individuals for the crimes they have actually committed, and not on the presumption that they could or would commit a crime.
The more we reflect on the consequences that would result from our knowledge of the future, the more clearly we see God’s Divine wisdom in hiding it from us. The certainty of good fortune in the future would make us lazy, while future despair would plunge us into depression or discouragement. In both cases, our activities are paralyzed. This is why the future is shown to human beings only as a goal that they must reach through their own effort, without knowing the sequence of events that they will experience in attaining it. The foreknowledge of all the events of their respective journeys would deprive them of their initiative and the use of their free will. They would submissively allow themselves to be led by the circumstances, without any exercise of their faculties. When the success of something is certain, we no longer worry about it.