If you [only] knew what this meant, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice…”
Jesus chastises the Pharisees for missing the greater picture regarding the Law: “I desire mercy, compassion, not sacrifice.” Had they appreciated this, they would not have condemned the innocent. God’s law is intended to bless people. If any application of the law does not have compassion for the welfare and the flourishing of people, it is a bad rule. The Pharisees then and today should have known the injunction of Hosea 6:6, “For it is loyalty I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Perhaps even more to the point is the teaching of Micah 6:8, “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: only to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Jesus’ point is that religious rules are to help people love God as well as their neighbor. Jesus wants us to follow the commandments, especially the one he left us, that we should love one another as he loved us. Following the commandments can be done out of fear of punishment or out of love, which is obviously what Jesus wants. God cares far more about our loving him and others and obeying him from the heart rather than obsessively keeping religious rules.
Every Eucharist reminds us of the debt of gratitude and love we owe Jesus because of his willingness to live and to offer his life for us. Appreciating that should make obedience to God flow naturally from the love we want to show God in return.
Is serving God and loving my neighbor an expression of my gratitude for all I have received from God?
Let Us Pray:
O Jesus, I know you call me to live the mercy you embody. Let my whole life be grateful for all you have done for me so that I may be filled with loving compassion for all I meet.