In the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent, the evangelist Luke gives us the historical context of the preaching of John. Luke mentions historical figures like Tiberius Caesar, Pilate, Herod the tetrarch, and others.
These are names of people who actually existed at one point in human history. Their existence can be readily verified from secular historical records.
By now you must have noticed my repetition of the word “historical”, and other words within its semantic field of meaning. As Bishop Barron insightfully suggests, the point being made by the author of Luke is the historicity, or facticity, of the very foundations of our faith. We are being shown that the story of Jesus is not a fictitious legend borne out of purely creative speculation.
In other words, Jesus is not a plainly mythical figure. He is an actual person, born into time and space as we know them, in this very dimension where we find ourselves.
Why is this insistence on the historicity of Jesus important? Bishop Barron says that our historical claims about Jesus and about the beginnings of our faith proclaim that God has in fact intervened in our existence.
And this intervention has altered the course of things. This intervention has changed the direction of reality. Because God has intervened in Jesus, our final destiny has shifted radically – from one that spells death and oblivion to another that guarantees life and perfection.
That God has intervened in our history is precisely the reason why we cling to hope. Deep in our hearts we know that even if all our human efforts fail, even when our best intentions are proven wanting, giving up is not an option.
Christians do not give up; we only surrender. We surrender to the mercy and wisdom of the God who transformed human history into the story of our redemption. The spiritual writer Ron Rolheiser says “… the entire gospels can be put into one word: surrender”. There is “a truth we know at the core of our being, namely, that in the end we cannot take care of ourselves, we cannot make ourselves whole, and we cannot hide our weaknesses from each other. We need to surrender, to trust, and to let ourselves fall into stronger and safer hands than our own”.
And so while we engage ourselves fully in making the world a bit better each day, while we work tirelessly for the purification of our socio-political system, while we dedicate ourselves to the preservation of the environment and the pursuit of justice under various forms, we do not forget that we are mere cooperators in a project bigger than ourselves. Our hope lies on those hands which are stronger and safer than our own.
The season of Advent is a period of quiet surrender. We wait with subtle confidence that despite appearances to the contrary there is a beautiful future awaiting us.
— Reflection by Fr. Anthony Uytingco