Discover more from Faith Seeking Understanding
Mercy, Not Sacrifice
Reflecting on the Second Sunday after Pentecost: Three Days after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 119:41-48
Old Testament: Genesis 18:16-33
Gospel: Matthew 12:1-8
Psalter: Psalm 40:1-8
Old Testament: Hosea 14:1-9
Gospel: Matthew 12:1-8
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? How he entered the house of God, and they ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:1-8).
“I desire mercy not sacrifice.” The statement reflects a broader theme found in Jesus’ teachings regarding the true nature of righteousness and the priorities of God. In Matthew 12, Jesus is responding to the criticism of the religious leaders who questioned why he was associating with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus, in his response, emphasizes the importance of mercy and compassion over rigid adherence to religious rituals or legalistic observances.
The sacrifice mentioned here refers to the religious sacrifices and rituals prescribed in the Old Testament law. These rituals, such as offering animal sacrifices or observing certain religious festivals were an integral part of Jewish religious practice at the time. However, Jesus suggests that mere external acts of sacrifice are not the primary focus of God’s desire. Instead, he highlights the importance of showing mercy, forgiveness, and compassion towards others. It’s not that the externals are unimportant, but when practiced rightly, they reveal deeper things—grace, mercy, and faithfulness. Sometimes, those who lead forget there are more important things in caring for people than rigidly enforcing the rules all the time. St. John Chrysostom writes,
Do you see once again how his speech is inclined toward leniency, yet showing the priests themselves to be in need of leniency? (The Gospel of Matthew, “Homily 39.2”).
Jesus’ teachings consistently emphasize the inward transformation of the heart and the importance of love and compassion towards others. He challenges his followers to go beyond external acts of religious devotion of just going through the motions and to cultivate a genuine spirit of mercy, kindness, and love. The true essence of righteousness, according to Jesus, lies in one’s relationship with God and their treatment of others, Religious rituals and observances should lead to faithfulness instead of hindering it because as people like to say, “Well, it’s all perfectly legal,” or “But it’s the law!” Such claims are often legalisms designed to promote injustice.
By stating “I desire mercy not sacrifice,” Jesus is inviting his followers to prioritize acts of kindness, compassion, and treat the law and religious practices as a means to an end, not an end in and of themselves. He encourages them to embody the spirit of love and mercy that reflects the nature of God.
PRAYER: Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Check out my social media platforms here.