[Jesus said,] “If you had known what these words mean ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)
This verse is a puzzling one to me because Jesus is not advocating that people ignore the law. Both Mercy and Sacrifice have the law. But Mercy says, “You cannot keep the law? I will not condemn you, quite the opposite, how can I help you?”
On the other hand, Sacrifice says, “You cannot keep the law? I will condemn you, for us giving to God (which is what sacrifice is) is the only hope we have of salvation. There is no hope for you.”
Mercy says that God giving to us is the only hope we have of salvation. And the heart of Mercy is attuned to the heart of God, for Mercy seeks to emulate God by showing mercy and giving to others.
So Sacrifice gives because she has to. There is no other option. Mercy gives because she wants to.
Another difference between Sacrifice and Mercy is that Sacrifice gives to God in order to please God and gain his approval. Mercy gives to her fellow human beings and to the rest of God’s creation because she knows that God is already well-pleased with her and he has already given her his unqualified approval. Mercy knows that this happened because she is “in Christ.” She is in relationship with Jesus and her heavenly Father accepts his perfection and purity on her behalf.
It is like going to lunch with a friend who always pays for your lunch and theirs. After a while, you realize that they meant what they said when they told you earlier, “Whenever you go out for lunch with me, I will always pay for lunch.” Eventually, you don’t even bring any money with you when the two of you go out for lunch because you know that you will not need it. You believe what your friend has said. You begin to live as if what they tell you is really true, because it is. All you do is receive what your friend gives you.
But you also remember. And perhaps you start buying lunch for someone else.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, please help me to receive all that you have for me. Help me to truly believe that you are always merciful towards me. Help me to be merciful towards others. Amen.