July 21, 2017
(St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church)
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.” Mt_12:1-8
You know, beloved, when we think about that statement, “I desire mercy not sacrifice,” it could be a little puzzling, because when we think of sacrifice, we tend to picture something really hard to do, like going to an opera instead of a ballgame. Like giving up chocolates, or anything else for that matter, that we enjoy – for the sake of some other purpose: like losing weight or because we love our spouse more than a ballgame. We love her enough to sacrifice sitting through the hours of an opera without complaining or falling asleep.
And so we sacrifice!
(to fulfill our own self-fulfilling prophesy or desire)
In the days of Jesus, people would sacrifice an animal for the sake of appeasing God and the Temple leaders. They would sacrifice not picking grain or saving a hurt animal on a Sabbath, for the sake of the not breaking the Sabbath Law.
And if we went all the way back to Moses, we’d see that Moses himself sacrificed his own reputation by making outrageous demands of the Egyptian Pharaoh (in obedience and fear of the God who gave him that order). He sacrificed his safety and actually risked his life in going back to Egypt, trusting that this ‘unseen God’ would stand by all of his promises.
And yet, with all that said about sacrifice, Jesus still insisted that God desires mercy more.
You see, even though we might think that sacrifice is hard, it’s not nearly as difficult as the mercy, the forgiveness of someone who has done us wrong, because sacrifice has a reason, a cause and effect, a cost and a benefit. But the reason for mercy is much more difficult for us to picture.
God desires mercy not only because it is the greatest sacrifice that anyone can possibly offer, but because its unseen effect is a world with more love. And a world with more love is a world with less hate. And a world with less hate is a whole lot more like God’s Kingdom, as Jesus described it.
If you were God: How would you convince a world, whose primary focus is internal, is self, that the answer to all of their woes is not found through self-preservation, or revenge, or defamation of others, or hatred, or greed? But it’s found through mercy!
Well, instead of just trying to explain it to deaf ears, you would show that world, by your own example, that even You, as God, are merciful enough to forgive them; even though they still keep hurting You by their sins.
And to prove the point, you would even be willing to sacrifice “a part” of your own self to the very evil that’s the greatest enemy of everything You stand for; all because that world thinks that they understand sacrifice and not mercy.
Jesus, as “that part” of God, in human form, sacrificed His own flesh and blood to prove to us that God is Merciful!
And Mercy trumps Sacrifice
The question is: Who is it in our lives – who needs our mercy and prayers today?
Who is it that we need to dump our hatred for, and maybe start forgiving and understanding?
Can we sit through that boring opera because our Love for God is greater than any self-centered ballgame? Who knows, in the process, we might even develop an appreciation for opera!
But just imagine the Kingdom that we COULD live in – without hatred in our own lives!
That’s the Kingdom, that’s the promise – of Mercy!
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