Scripture: Matthew 9:9-17
Key verse: (13) “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”
Reflection: The other day I was reading a devotional that offered a litany of things I needed to do in my life in order to be faithful. It was a good list, filled with good things to do, as are most “to-do” lists in daily devotionals. I like lists. They help me feel in control of things. I love the feeling of checking things off the list. Check! Check! Check! It makes me feel so productive, so faithful, so righteous. There’s something wonderful about lists.
Today’s reading from Matthew is filled with people who like lists. They have lists for what to do and what not to do, which ultimately leads them to have lists for who is “in” and who is “out.” Lists can have a way of doing this. Their list includes a number of dietary laws concerning what you can eat and what you can’t eat, when you should eat and when you shouldn’t eat, who you can eat with and who you can’t.
Jesus causes a problem by not following the list. He eats with sinners and tax collectors. When the righteous call him on it, he quotes the prophet, Hosea. “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” In the NRSV, Hosea 6:6 reads, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice.” The Hebrew word is hesed. It can be translated “mercy” or “steadfast love.” Either way, it is so much more challenging than sacrifice. It’s not something we can just check off the list and boost our sense of accomplishment. By its very nature, steadfast love/mercy calls for endurance. It is by definition a daily orientation to others in our world.
God desires mercy. What an important word for those, who like me, love lists. God desires mercy. Ultimately, isn’t that what God gives us? What would it mean for us to extend it to one another? After all, it is what God desires from us.
Prayer: We pray to you, “Lord, have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy.” And you do. May we do the same with one another. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].