Journeying into God’s Merciful Love – The Wasteland

Week of March 6, 2016

In today’s very familiar Gospel, a dad had two sons.  One takes his inheritance and runs to the wasteland.   In it he squanders all he has.  The second stays at home, but still is in a wasteland of sin as well.  The wasteland of sin can occur whenever we isolate our needs and make them of sole importance.  When we prioritize our day based on self-fulfillment or pleasure, we begin to enter a wasteland.  In the parable Jesus invites us to see that the wasteland can be outside of us. The desire for more of everything clouds us from the needs of others.  The wasteland within is the sins that occur from self-righteousness, judging others and jealousy.  These equally isolate us from the needs of others.  In the parable, the father, like God the Father, moves to engage both sons in the places where they are.  He runs to welcome his lost son.  He finds the second son and invites him into the party, as well reconfirms that he has the inheritance and that everything is truly his.  The father was not isolated in his love.  He is not in a wasteland, but in the oasis of mercy.  He extends mercy and forgiveness to both.  The sin and wasteland of our lives is always present.  But the wasteland is not to define our lives.  Our sin is not to define our lives.  God’s mercy, His desire to rescue us out of the wasteland and into relationships of caring and service is communicated through His beloved son Jesus. 
The wasteland teaches us a lot about God.  Our sin is always overcome by God’s sacrificial love.  Jesus, who knew no sin, died for our sin.  The wasteland also teaches us that God will send His love to us.  We are never to despair that we are alone.  The father reaches out to both children.  The same is true for us.  Even in the midst of sin, God will reach out to us and pull us from our sin and He rejoices when we are reconciled and try to sin no more. We can never know the depth of God’s love until we enter the wasteland of our sins.  One time, I was asked to preach about the Sacrament of Reconciliation at a retreat for teens.  I spoke frankly about going deep into our hearts and really acknowledging our sinfulness. I said that when we do this, God will go deeper with His healing.  The group asked if I would stay for Reconciliation at the conclusion of the Eucharist.  I said yes.  For hours, I heard the teens go deep into the sins of their wasteland.  They trusted that God would go deeper and God did not disappoint.  It was after 10:00 P.M. when I began my ride home from north of Lake Geneva on a snowy Saturday night.  I drove home knowing of God’s grace.  I knew He had lifted up the sinner and welcomed many home in a profound way.  It was a humbling ride through the night as I wandered the roads of Wisconsin and Illinois.  My joy was so strong that even Starbucks coffee was not needed to stay awake on the way.  The wasteland is not a place for fear, but a place for receiving God’s mercy.  May truth and honesty prevail. May the wasteland of the sin in our lives allow us to know the One who forgives.

Rev. John J. Ouper