I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Unknown-5Today’s Gospel from Matthew hits many of us right between the eyes when we hear the following words:

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

How often do I withhold mercy in my own life and how do I feel when it is withheld from me.  I’m not much of a grudge-holder actually, but there are a few that I carry around in my sack from time to time and too often that sack weighs me down and prevents me from doing all that I can do.  How much more can I accomplish, if I lay down my resentment and move into the thing that God is calling me to more intentionally?

I’m in St. Louis these days at the Ignatian Spirituality Conference where we are contemplating the idea of silence and integrating that more into our prayer lives and encouraging it with those whom we serve.  They say ‘Silence is Golden’ but in the silence we often find our own darkness and cannot avoid it. Resentments may very well be at the heart of the times we sit in our silence to pray. This is a good sign that God is asking us to look at this more deeply.

Silence often asks us to slow down as well.  In my own time of prayer yesterday, in my imaginative contemplation with Jesus, I imagined us running together.  I sprinted ahead of Jesus and at some point he yelled to me to slow down.  “This isn’t a race! I refuse to race with you!  Look at my feet!” he replied.  And there I saw the bloodied and broken feet of the Jesus of the cross.  “I have been hurt and cannot run as I would like now.  The blood pours out of these holes in my feet and I am in too much pain to go forward.  I need to heal first and your wounds are these wounds too.  What do you need to heal from during these days of reflection? Let’s do that work first and then we can move ahead and maybe even run a bit after that.”

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Floodgates opened and I found several resentments that we left unresolved.  Late in the evening I remarked to a colleague, “You know, even with all the lousy experiences I’ve had in my life, I really love what my life has become and I’m open now to  what lies ahead.  I don’t want to be doing anything else and I need to remind myself of the things that renew me, especially the “extra side projects” that keep my mind and energy renewed for the work I do regularly and help my marriage and my friendships benefit from my own happiness.”

It is good to be with friends this week.  But it is also renewing to be here in silence, where we meet Jesus and where all is revealed so that we might not run through our day so carelessly, but treat the wounds so that we might run more swiftly, intentionally, joyfully and with much mercy