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June 1996

Go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."(Mt. 9:13, cf. Hosea 6:6)

"I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Do you remember when Jesus said these words? It was while he was having a meal and some tax collectors and sinners came and sat at the table with him. Seeing this, the Pharisees who were present asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus heard their words and replied:

Go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

Jesus was quoting a sentence from the prophet Hosea, showing that he liked the idea it contained. It was, in fact, the principle he himself followed. It expresses the primacy of love over any other commandment, any other rule or law.

This is Christianity: Jesus came to say that what God wants from you, in your relationships with others - whether men or women - is love first of all, and that this will of God has already been announced in Scripture as the words of the prophet show.

Love is the agenda for the life of all Christians. It is the basic law of their actions, the yardstick of their behaviour.

Love must always come before other laws. Indeed, love for others has to be the firm foundation on which a Christian can validly put into practice every other principle.

Go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

Jesus wants love, and mercy is an expression of love. Jesus wants Christians to live like this because God is like this.

In Jesus' eyes, God is first of all the Merciful One, the Father who loves everyone and who makes the sun rise and rain fall on the good and the bad.

Because Jesus loves everyone, he is not afraid of associating with sinners and in this way he reveals to us who God is.

If, therefore, God is like this, and Jesus is the same, you too must nurture the very same feelings in yourself.

Go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

"...not sacrifice." If you do not love your neighbour, your worship will not be pleasing to Jesus. He does not welcome your prayers, your Church-going, the offerings you make, if they do not flower from a heart that is at peace with everyone and filled with love towards all.

Do you remember Jesus' powerful words during the Sermon on the Mount? "So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift." (Mt. 5:23-24)

These words tell you that the worship most pleasing to God is the love of your neighbour, which must also be the basis for the worship of God.

If you wanted to give a present to your own father while you were angry with your brother (or your brother was angry with you) what would your father say? "Make peace between the two of you and then come and offer me anything you like."

But there is more. Love is not only the basis for Christian living. It is also the most direct way of being in communion with God. This is said by the saints, the witnesses to the Gospel who have gone before us. It is experienced by Christians who live out their faith. If they help their brothers and sisters, above all the needy, their devotion grows, their union with God is strengthened, they feel that a bond exists between them and the Lord, and this is what gives most joy to their lives.

Go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

How can you live this new Word of Life?

Do not discriminate between the people you deal with, do not marginalise anyone, but offer to all as much as you can give, imitating God the Father. Patch up the little or big disagreements that are displeasing to heaven and bring bitterness to your life. As Scripture says, do not let the sun set on your anger towards anyone. (cf. Eph. 4:24)

If you act in this way, all that you do will be pleasing to God and will remain in eternity. Whether you are working or resting, whether you are playing or studying, whether you are with your children or going for a walk with your wife or husband, whether you are praying or making sacrifices, or fulfilling the religious practices of your Christian vocation, everything, everything is raw material for the kingdom of heaven.

Paradise is a house that is built here and lived in there, and we build it with love.

Chiara Lubich


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