Saint for the day: Blessed Emmanuel Ruiz & Companions (1804 – 1860
Genesis 23: 1 -4 … 19 … 62-67
“Jesus said, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)
The quote above, from today’s Liturgy, is familiar enough to us that we might just “ho-hum” it and move on. But if we take a moment to “parse it” we might get the deeper, fuller meaning.
All our gifts and abilities are given to us, not that we might appear better than someone else, but for the express purpose of “building up the Body of Christ – the Church.” There were many people who followed Jesus and sought to imitate the “works” He did. Not in order to heal and build up but, rather to appear to be like Jesus with the same power he exercised. We must always seek “the giver” and not the gifts. Then we look at the quote from today’s Gospel, “it is mercy that I seek and not sacrifice” and we might just try to find out what that’s all about. But let us not forget the fullness of what Jesus actually says: “go and learn the meaning of, “it is mercy that I seek and not sacrifice,” So we are forced to take apart that quote and find the deeper meaning that Jesus wants us to have. It’s almost like saying, “don’t just follow the ‘laws’ without some interior change of heart.” These words of Jesus were certainly timeless in the sense that the Church that I grew up in had lost this meaning. We, like the S & Ps of Jesus’ time, were fixated on ‘the letter of the law’ at the expense of the spirit. I see that often here at St. Dominic’s where we have a very popular “Shrine to St. Jude.” People come to say the novena prayers or get a medal or rosary or St. Jude Oil. They often ask me to bless these objects. I always make a point to tell them that these items aren’t “magic trinkets” but reminders to us to have faith in our own hearts in the power of God acting through the intersession of St. Jude.
The S & Ps at the time of Jesus were fastidious in keeping all 613 “laws” and never broke the Sabbath Law yet they had no mercy. They fasted fastidiously but turned their backs on the sick who were in need of a doctor to heal them. Matthew put his life on the line by leaving his lucrative ‘tax collector trade” to follow Jesus. As we celebrate this feast can we see what we, ourselves have to leave behind in order to follow Jesus who has shown us mercy in order that we might bring mercy to the people around us. What “treasure” do we have to leave behind in order to find that “pearl of great price?” “Where your thoughts go in your idle moments: there is your treasure.” Let us see what the Lord is asking of us today and see if we can “leave all and follow him?” Amen!