Today Catholic Christians celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent.
The main theme we encounter in today’s Scripture selections is to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.
In the Old Testament reading, for example, Isaiah says:

A voice cries out:

In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!

Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

Every valley shall be filled in,

every mountain and hill shall be made low;

the rugged land shall be made a plain,

the rough country, a broad valley.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all people shall see it together,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken (40: 3-5).

In the New Testament reading from the Second Letter of St. Peter, we hear that if we are truly prepared for the coming of the Lord at the end times, we should be people found without spot or blemish.

Finally, in the Gospel selection, Mark introduces us to the herald – or announcer – of the Messiah, John the Baptist.

Today we focus on the first reading – making a smooth highway for our God.

Now in almost every part of the United States, we have paved roads going everywhere we need to be.  In many other nations of the world, though, roads are often unpaved and quite dangerous.  We encounter such roads in our sister parish in Honduras.

Making straight the way of the Lord, however, can be seen as a metaphor for our own souls.  The boulders and potholes are the faults we carry with us.  Thus, each of us needs to smooth out the rough parts of our souls to make way for the Lord both at the end of time, and at Christmas.  To do this, we need to reform our deformed practices.  Often, we do that by re-doing what we did incorrectly in the first place, and then trying to not make the same mistakes in the future.

In the following story, we see how one writer used a rejection letter to improve a story, and as a result, sold the story.

Gail Rosenblum tells the story of how a magazine asked her to write a story about the Las Posadas festival in San Antonio, Texas.  After she submitted her story, she received a rejection letter.  For Gail, no matter what a rejection letter said, she interpreted it as a “Dear-Contributor we’re sorry but due to the enormous volume of unsolicited manuscripts we receive every ten minutes a personal reply is simply not possible so why don’t you just take a sledgehammer to your computer and go get an MBA” type of letter.

Actually, the letter she got was much kinder, and it gave her some construction criticism on how she could improve her manuscript.  There was one part of the letter, however, that made her particularly angry.  It said, “One of the editors wonders whether you really witnessed the event.”

After nursing her bruised ego for a couple of days, Gail got busy and rewrote the manuscript, following the helpful suggestions of the editor, and sent it in.

Instead of simply being gracious in acknowledging the editor’s criticisms as constructive, Gail couldn’t seem to help herself by adding a note that said, “Incidentally, please pass on to the editor who wondered whether I witnessed Las Posadas that yes, indeed, I was there and the evening will be one of my fondest memories of San Antonio.  And please add that the next time I am in San Antonio, I would like to invite her to lunch on the river—and push her in!”

Fortunately, the editor in charge of her manuscript also had a fine sense of humor.  After praising Gail’s rewritten manuscript, she wrote, “About the editor you want to push into the San Antonio River…Ol’ Rosie is pretty mean.  But she likes your second version.”

Like Gail, we too need to redo much of our lives.  We too need to remove those obstacles that prevent the way from being smooth.  We do that in three ways.

First, we acknowledge those negatives in our lives that are obstacles to holiness.  We do this by examining our conscience.  We look for the good things that we fail to do, and the bad things we deliberately do.

Second, we come to the conclusion that these acts of omission and commission are not in harmony with God’s will.  We vow to work hard to remove them from our lives so that we can live more holy lives.  One of the wonderful gifts we have as Catholic Christians is that of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

And third, we need to carry out a plan for improvement.  For example, if we find we are imprudent with our money, we need to make a budget and stick to it.  Each and every one of us will never run out of ways to improve our lives – to make straight the way of the Lord.

And that is the good news I have for you on this Second Sunday of Advent, 2017.

                                                                                                                                               

Story source:  Gail Rosenblum, “Learning from Rejection,” in Jack Canfield, Mark

Victor Hansen, and Bud Gardner (Eds.), Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 2000, pp. 328-331.