Listen to A Voice in the Desert
(See Lk 3:1-6)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
This Sunday’s Gospel story tells us how Saint John the Baptist fulfilled his task of the forerunner who prepares the way for Christ. Yes, before the coming of the Savior, the holy man was sent to preach repentance to the people and encourage them to receive the rite of cleansing of their sins in the river of Jordan. Many people did come to listen to Saint John’s preaching.
Sacred Scriptures, however, introduce Saint John as “a voice of one crying out in the desert.”
What does this phrase “a voice of one crying out in the desert” really mean? Does this mean that Saint John’s voice was not strong enough to reach his audience’s ears? Or, does this simply tell us the sad reality that his message of repentance fell into deaf ears?
We need to take note of the background for Saint John’s preaching mission. It did not happen in big and crowded cities but “in the desert.”
A desert emerges in our mind as a place without, or almost no, sign of life for lack of basic commodities such as water, food and the like. In the biblical context, “desert” mainly means a land where only wild beasts survive and a favorite venue for the forces of evil to operate.
In this sense, we can find a desert wherever human dignity and human rights are violated, freedom of speech suppressed, and, in the first place, freedom of religion compromised.
So, “a voice of one crying out in the desert” reveals to us the difficult circumstances that Saint John had to confront in his mission of preaching the message of repentance. People, those in power in particular, are not willing to hear somebody accusing them of their wrongdoings. Their reactions sometimes turn too violent that cause the death of the prophets. This has proved to be true every time and everywhere.
On the other hand, “a voice of one crying out in the desert” also acknowledges the truth that Saint John’s message of repentance can hardly find its way into people’s hearts which have become insensitive to matters of moral values. Those who want to promote human and religious values find themselves so lonely and even powerless that they have been reduced into “a voice of one crying out in the desert.”
But, as we have already seen how necessary it was for those who wished to be saved at the first coming of Christ by listening to Saint John the Baptist’s message of repentance, we also take into serious consideration our listening to the message of repentance preached by the Church to prepare for the second coming in glory of Christ, our Lord and Savior.
The message of conversion of the Church could become “a voice of one crying out in the desert” in this time of many and different forms of crisis when, in the words of Saint Paul, “people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.” 
And we, as members of the Church that is of its nature missionary should not give up our mission of preaching repentance to the world torn by violations of human dignity and human rights, by suppression of basic living conditions, and by the most harmful of all evil doings, the removal of God’s presence from our society.
Again Saint Paul has something to tell us: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” 
This is simply because we do know how it is essential and necessary for our salvation, that “voice of one crying out in the desert”.
Fr. Francis Nguyen, O.P.