Sunday, December 18, 2016

353: Advent

Around this time each year I feel like a grump. It’s that annual bout that I have to fight, on one side the atmosphere of persistent commercialism that pervades the air and on the other my desire for a more authentic religious experience to prepare for Christmas. This year, however, brings me to a new low, one that not even the Misa de Gallo can seem to lift. This time, the very notion of what it means to be good seems to be under assault.

It’s hard for me to find much reason for holiday cheer. If I’m putting a damper on your own mood, I apologize. It’s just that for the past six months, it feels that society has been turned upside down. We have as the head of a nation a person who is uncouth and unstable, petty and paranoid, inconsistent and intemperate. Close to 6,000 have been killed, including women and children, in a nebulous ill-defined drug war.

Not content with that, congress wants to bring back the death penalty and lower the age of criminality to nine years old. By way of distraction, we have a state-sponsored reality telenovela starring kingpins and couriers. But as harsh as it has been on the thousands of anonymous Filipino dead and anyone who dares speak out, it has been nothing but fawning obsequiousness to kleptocrats and territorial expansionists. All of this in just six months and still sixty-six more to go, assuming we're still around.

It's hard not have these things weigh heavily on the mind. Even at Mass -- or perhaps especially at Mass -- the exhortations to goodness, to patience, and to charity all seem hollow in the face of the evil that many willingly countenance. Worse still is the seeming silence of the Church on many of these issues.

So I take a little comfort in the thought that, two thousand years ago, things weren't that much better. The Christmas that we anticipate and commemorate is rooted in a real time and a real place. That first Christmas happened in a nation under foreign occupation, to a people whose defining religion had become all hollow rituals and regulations, under a king quite willing to murder innocent children.

And then, quite unexpectedly...