Friday, July 2, 2010

I desire mercy, not sacrifice

Amos 8:4-6,9-12
Psalm 119:2,10,20,30,40,131
Matthew 9:9-13

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Despite how it seems, these words that we find on the lips of Jesus today are not a complete rejection of sacrifice. If we reflect on these words in the context of the gospel passage, it is evident that what Jesus is getting at is that what is truly important is not just the external, visible actions but the internal, invisible state of one’s heart. A person with a heart of stone can offer sacrifice and it would appear to be exactly the same as the sacrifice of a righteous person – the externals do not always show the reality. To be merciful is not something one simply acts out. Though it can be manifested in actions, being merciful is primarily a disposition of the heart.

The scriptures today show us several examples of men who were so caught up in the externals that they had completely lost sight of the internal. The prophet Amos shows us a people whose hard hearts were made manifest by the absolute unconcern for the things of the Lord. Rather than celebrating the Sabbath, they complained because it cut into their time to make money. Rather than be honest with one another, they cheated and lied. The Pharisees, too, were so concerned with following rules and customs that they forgot what the point of the rules and customs was – to honor God and neighbor. They followed the letter of the Law but failed to recognize the spirit of the Law.

As we come here this morning to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I’m sure we can all find a point sometime in the past month in which we have gotten caught up in the externals and failed to live with a pure heart. And so we not only come to honor Jesus’ Sacred Heart, but we also come to make reparation for our faults and to open ourselves again to His love and mercy. As St. Margaret Mary once received the heart of Jesus in place of her own, we too come before the Lord to receive not just His Body and Blood, but also His Heart. And as we receive His heart, we are able to truly be the mercy that He so greatly desires for the world.