As we contemplate the figure of Saint John the Baptist during this second week of Advent, his place in the desert can give us much to reflect upon. For it seems that in our own age, the Lord is guiding us into the desert (or otherwise referred to in the Gospels as the “wilderness”) both as disciples and as a Church.
Recall that the work of any prophet was to speak the truth to the people of his time- a truth about their failures and sins. It was not an easy message to hear, provoking opposition and even persecution. However, the prophet offered these words of correction in the hope that it would move God’s people to embrace and accept the vision of new life that would be realized when the Messiah came to bring redemption and forgiveness to all who ask. As such, the prophets walked among God’s people, preaching a message of both conversion and hope.
In light of this, it is curious that John often found himself in the desert, where there was no ready audience. Why? It seems to me that the answer to this question is critically important. More specifically, those who came to John in the desert accepted the need to leave the comfort, predictability and control of their ordinary life behind, in order to hear his message. The starkness of the desert does not easily allow for distractions, excuses or any attempt to “domesticate” the word of God to fit our comfortable life. Rather, it comes across clearly and powerfully, because in part we have left all other distractions and excuses behind.
In our modern life of faith, filled with distractions, comforts and the unspoken expectation that “my life must be all about me”, it is in the desert that we are most apt to hear the challenge of conversion and surrender to the grace offered by Christ to live a new life. So we can ask ourselves: How can you and I enter into the desert? Where can we find it in our ordinary life? What are we waiting for?
Those who followed John into the desert encountered a message of repentance and hope to come in Jesus. It is time for us to follow John’s lead.
The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos!