I desire mercy, not sacrifice
Readings: 1st: Is 38:1-6.21-22.7-8; Ps: 38; Gos: Mt 12:1-8
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment. He is the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico; the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, the Friday of the fifteenth week of ordinary time, Mathew presents us a debate between Christ and the Pharisees.
Protocol and bureaucracy help us to maintain some level of decorum in our systems. However, when driven to the extreme, they could destroy the same system they were meant to sustain and protect.
The more legalistic and rigid we become, the more insensitive we become to the immediate need and plight of others. In this way, we lose the capacity to empathize with others and consequently, the real essence of life.
According to Jewish tradition, work is prohibited on the Sabbath. So, the Pharisees were strict in their defense and enforcement of this law.
In today’s gospel, they accused Christ: “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.” This was because they picked and eat some grains from a farm on the Sabbath.
For the Pharisees, all that mattered was to enforce the law. They could not see beyond this. It did not matter if the young men were dying of hunger or not. So. it was more important to save the law, than to save their lives.
Christ responded to this charge in a very interesting way. He displayed an excellent knowledge of the same law the Pharisees invoked to condemn them.
He cited three similar instances from the Scripture. These include the action of David; the regulation on the work of the priests in the temple, and the action of prophet Hosea. This is pure wisdom in action.
The response of Christ today has much to teach us. However, it suffices to note that Christ was neither against the law of Sabbath nor is he encouraging unreasonable trespass into other people’s properties.
Rather, through his response he teaches us that when life is in danger, laws and regulations could be suspended to save it. Hunger is one of such dangers that is still claiming thousands of lives in our world.
Unfortunately, due to much regulations and restrictions, hunger continues to claim more lives even in the midst of plenty.
So, even in the worst situations in life, showing a little kindness and mercy makes a lot of difference.
Our God is the God of law and order. Most important, he is also, the God of mercy and compassion. Hence, Christ reminds us: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Peace be with you all!