”And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7)
Most often, we think of “mercy” as forgiveness we show to those who offend us. From our readings today, we learn that mercy also entails kindness, compassion and understanding shown to people who (in our eyes) deserve punishment of some sort.
In other words, mercy entails refraining from passing pre-mature judgement on others. To be merciful is to assume one’s innocence until proven guilty and not the other way round. It is mercy to hear the other person’s own side of the story before jumping into conclusion. It is mercy to refrain from partaking in jungle justice without proper investigation.
Jesus and his disciples were passing through a grain of fields on the Sabbath and they were hungry so they began to pluck heads of grain to eat. The Pharisees saw it and were very quick to condemn Jesus and his disciples as sinners. In a similar way, when Jesus went to eat at the house of Matthew (who used to be a tax collector), the Pharisees were very quick to accuse Jesus of committing sin by descending so low to be eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. In both instances, Jesus’ defence was: “Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13).
In today’s first reading we come across one of Israel’s most prayerful king. Once he was threatened by the king of Assyria, he took the letter and went into the Temple to pray. That night an entire army of soldiers were struck down. Hezekiah defeated without raising a single sword. Hezekiah is sick now. God sends Isaiah to tell him to put his house in order but Hezekiah trusting in God’s mercy turned to the wall and prayed again. Hezekiah wept bitterly. God heard him and added fifteen years to his life.
But for the mercy of God, none of us would be alive. Indeed, if you are still breathing, know that it is the mercy of God keeping you alive. And why is God so merciful? To give us an opportunity to repent. If God is this merciful to us, we should not be too quick to pass judgement on others.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, free me from passing premature judgement on others. Amen.
Bible Study: Isaiah 38:1-22, Psalm from Isaiah 38, Matthew 12:1-8).