Memorial of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Ex 11: 10 – 12: 14; Ps. Is 38; Matthew 12: 1 – 8
We know the passage as “The Finding in the Temple; St. Luke reports: “On the third day they (Mary & Joseph) came upon Him in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All who heard Him were amazed at the intelligence of His answers.” (Luke 3: 46f)
It is now about 18 years later and the very precocious child has become a very popular teacher and His unusual authority draws crowds to Him, to see Him, hear Him, touch Him. The scene St. Matthew presents is a far cry from the admiring temple people; now they have been replaced by the ever-present spying Pharisees whose aim is to refute or ridicule Him, the rebel. Their aim is to protect the law because it was their lifeblood – what gives them power and prestige – worth more than silver and gold.
Jesus upset their tranquil conceit; he pulled the carpet out from under their feet with this: “If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice” – His words infuriated them and He had to be silenced for good.
Jesus’ words stand – He speaks to us: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice!” We can and do sacrifice time to pray, to do lectio, to celebrate Eucharist – but according to Jesus they have meaning in so far as we become Christlike – people of mercy, of compassion for one another. Baptismal life, monastic life are not ways to win over God or to bribe Him to our needs – God is infinitely beyond bribes of any kind.
Rather, Baptismal life, monastic life are means to being won over to Him totally – conquered, if you will, by His own mercy, His infinite compassion – as the Lord proclaimed – a merciful heart, one of profound compassion is His desire and there is no way around it.
Jesus’ words “If you knew what this meant…?” Do we – you/I know what it means really?