“Violence and smut are of course everywhere on the airwaves. You cannot turn on your television without seeing them, although sometimes you have to hunt around.” (Dave Barry)
So begins another liturgical year, another cycle of Sunday readings.
The prophet Isaiah starts us off. He is the official sponsor of Advent. We hear his invitation to "climb the Lord's mountain" to receive formation and to live out that formation in action (what it means to "walk").
Isaiah is particularly noting the fallen preference for contention. His response: "All the energy you were about to put into getting one over on that guy--redirect it toward his good." Prayers are the first and best line of charitable offense. If other avenues present themselves, by all means take them!
The second reading from Romans is more concerned with sexual misdeeds. Instead of working on night moves, St. Paul exhorts us to "conduct ourselves properly as in the day." Orgies, drunkenness, promiscuity, lust, rivalry, and jealousy are covert operations. They may surface in the daytime, but until recently their practitioners have tended to hide themselves.
All the readings encourage the Advent watchword, vigilance. One never knows when and how our lives will end; "therefore, stay awake!" Jesus says (Mt 24:42).
Is the fear of death an adequate or ideal motivator for conversion? Maybe it's not the ideal one. We can aim for daily conversion, knowing we always need to adjust our attitudes and actions.
Advent is built into the liturgical year so that we can revisit this theme of vigilance regularly. We can pay attention to what our eyes and ears regularly behold, because these sights and sounds form us. Are there channels of "violence and smut" that we silently program to the "Favorites" buttons, whether in our minds, on our television sets or Netflix queues, or elsewhere? God's people deserve better!