At that time Jesus went through the grainfields 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? He entered the house of God and 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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
At a daily Mass recently, during the penitential rite, the presider invited us to thank God for God’s mercy, to ask for mercy, and to pray for mercy for all people. It struck me that he didn’t first mention sin or regret or forgiveness, but just invited us to stand and enjoy God’s mercy. Then he just simply intoned: Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy. It was so simple.
And that is the difference between sacrifice and mercy. Sacrifice begins with the negative: that we/I have sinned. And this then would require one to first make an atonement, some sort of sacrifice or denial or obligation in order to satisfy God. With this understanding, one’s sacrifice is necessary prior to being welcome by God.
But mercy already resides in God’s embrace. Mercy already is gift given, gift received, gift offered and gift to share with another. God is already satisfied with me. Mercy is God’s love given because God just cannot help it.
Sacrifice begins with an obligation to earn or restore God’s love; sacrifice embraces a separation between me and God. Mercy embraces God’s divine presence with intimacy and trust; mercy knows no moment of separation from God, but is an ongoing and constant relationship.
Do I sometimes feel unworthy to be in God’s mercy freely given? And thus judging others as unworthy to receive my mercy? How am I truly willing to receive, embrace, enjoy, celebrate and share God’s mercy?
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. serves in campus ministry at Loyola University Chicago and is also minister of the Loyola Jesuit Community.
Lord have mercy!
Christ have mercy!
Lord have mercy!