Daily Reflection
July 5th, 2002
Barbara Dilly
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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Amos 8:4-6, 9-12
Psalm 119:2, 10, 20, 30, 40, 131
Matthew 9:9-13

The lessons for today remind me of my priorities as a Christian.  If I am to follow Jesus, I need to choose the way of faithfulness and justice with my whole heart all of the time.  That is difficult for me to do.  I cannot say, as does the Psalmist in Chapter 119:20 that "My soul is consumed with longing for thy ordinances at all times."  And while I have chosen the way of faithfulness for my life, God's testimonies and ordinances are not always on my mind and in my heart.  My life is not the model sacrifice.  But when I read Matthew 9:9-13, I am encouraged.  Jesus says, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.
Jesus says, "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'"  My reflections today are on what these words mean to me.  When Jesus says that he came not for the righteous, but for sinners, I know he came for me.  I don't think of sinners as particularly evil people, but people like me who, are not always righteous.  We can offer sacrifices, but our giving up of what we think is precious.  To better align ourselves with God's greater goodness is not so important to Jesus as the compassion we show to others in distress.  Mercy is that higher level of compassion we show others even when we have the power or legitimacy of justice to punish them or take advantage of them.

So when I read Amos 8:4-6, 9-12, I think God is reminding the faithful like me to show mercy to the needy and the poor.  But not just in the form of charity or by making sacrifices.  Jesus taught us that there are many opportunities for some to take advantage of others who are less powerful economically.  We can buy their goods for less than they are worth.  We can hire their labor for less than it is worth.  We can charge more for our goods than they are worth, perhaps not personally, but certainly collectively, as members of a wealthy nation that buys cheap goods from poor nations whose currency has less value.  We also benefit by living in a rich nation that controls or greatly influences the values of other nation's currency and the prices of raw materials, labor, and goods throughout the world.  I think the lessons today are asking me to show mercy to those poor and needy nations rather than wish to bring them to an end. 

More than ever, the issues of peace anywhere in the world affect all of us.  The faithful are called to consider what is just as Americans attempt to influence peace processes.  This is difficult enough for us to do because we always let our national self-interests intervene.  But even more difficult than promoting justice, is the practice of extending mercy.  I pray that all Americans, and particularly our leaders, can show mercy in the ongoing peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and elsewhere around the world.

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