“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Two days ago, we heard from the beginning of chapter 12 of Matthew (vv. 1-8).  Jesus finds Himself again at odds with the Pharisees — this time because His disciples are pulling and eating grain on the Sabbath.  To counter the Pharisees’ objections, Jesus points out that David did something similar on the Sabbath (1 Sam 21:1-6), and that the priests serving in the temple are also not guilty for violating the Sabbath (Num 28:9-10).  Jesus tells them that something greater in the temple is in their midst and that He is Lord of the Sabbath.  He tells them they don’t know the meaning of the words at top (Hos 6:6) because if they did they would not condemn His men for their actions that day.  Sacrifice is not a bad thing.  The countless required sacrifices of the Old Testament were meant to separate the Chosen People from their idolatrous ways.  Jesus’ sacrifice of His life was required for our salvation.  Sacrifice of blood, treasure, and time throughout the ages has served to build up the Kingdom.  Our personal sacrifices on a daily basis help loved ones  Fasting, almsgiving, and charitable work all can bring us and others closer to God as they help their material needs.  But if we do all of these things, but don’t show love and mercy, we’ve gained nothing (cf. 1 Cor 13:3).  If we fast but are miserable to ourselves and others, we are not doing God’s will (cf. Mt 6:16).  If we give to charity, telling everyone of our generosity and expecting accolades (Lk 18:9-14), we are a noisy gong (cf. 1 Cor 13:1).  The ideal is to integrate mercy and sacrifice so that increasing the latter causes the former to do the same.  Let us pray for an increase in virtue leading to true integration in our lives.

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