My regular Friday prayer time (an adaptation of Ignatian Meditation this week), led me to Luke 3:15: "As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ."
John's preaching is creating a buzz among Palestinian Jews. "Is this perhaps the Messiah?" They were jumping to an erroneous conclusion, of course, as we can see clearly in retrospect and as John tried to warn them even in the moment. Yet, a "buzz" doesn't happen from nowhere, out of nothing. It depends on a pre-existing widespread hunger, a common yearning. In the case of John's contemporaries, it was for a deliverer who would lead them in throwing off the yoke of Roman political oppression and restore Israel to its Davidic glory days.
The key component in the Church's mission is to emulate John the Baptist, to be an heraldic community, to be creators of a buzz. (In the vocabulary of the Lewisian Narnia metaphor, "Aslan is on the loose!") But if we're to create a buzz effectively, we need to have a deep intuitive grasp of the public hunger, the common yearning, that will support such a buzz, that will give it wings, and let it "go viral."
What is that hunger for our contemporaries in this society? I don't presume to have a definite answer. Or even a preliminary one. But this I do know: Whatever it is, it's something that we (Christians) share. It's something we already feel. So we would do well to pay some focused attention to our own deepest longings, because therein will be revealed the linchpin to our mission, our capacity to emulate John and point the way to Jesus.