About twenty years ago, I stumbled on the passage in Wisdom 5, verses 6 through 16 and used it for a parish reconciliation form II. It’s not utilized in the Lectionary for Mass, but is offered as a suggested reading for the Rite of Penance, number 112. The passage really deserves a wider audience, as I’ve always found it to be a rich exposition on the futility of sin and on God’s redemption, especially in the use of metaphors. The first few verses read:
We, then, have strayed from the way of truth,
and the light of justice did not shine for us,
and the sun did not rise for us.
We had our fill of the ways of mischief and of ruin;
we journeyed through impassable deserts,
but the way of the LORD we knew not.
When I was reflecting on this earlier today, the word mischief stood out. As a playful person, I like to engage in a bit of mischief now and then. But there is also a devilish side to mischief, people poked at not to laugh with them, but to laugh at them. It’s about a trip or a slap or such, a gesture that’s not returned in kindly fun.
The other insight on this passage is the desert, not as a refuge or a place of purification, but as something impassable. Without a purpose or a direction, a desert may well be a place in which we get lost, through which we cannot make or find our way. It would be like being stranded on Mars without even a hope of finding air or water or anything to sustain one’s life.