Daily Reflection
July 18th, 2008

George Butterfield

School of Law Library
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“If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice….’”

Hezekiah was a good king, unlike his father or his son. He had faithfully served the Lord. Yet, he became sick and the word was that it was fatal. All that remained for the good king was to get his affairs in order and die. Hezekiah pleaded with the Lord and wept bitterly. He called upon God to remember his devotion and faithfulness to him. His one desire was to go up to the temple again. Is it because Hezekiah prayed and wept that God added fifteen years to his life? I once heard a man say that his friends attributed changes in circumstances to luck. They wondered why he spent so much time in prayer. His response was that he just seemed to be luckier when he prayed! Did God change his mind about Hezekiah’s fate because of his prayer? It appears so. Of course, we have all known people as good and as devoted and faithful as Hezekiah who prayed, wept bitterly, and still died. This is inexplicable to us. Yet, the God of Hezekiah is one who hears prayers and sees tears. “I desire mercy….”

Hezekiah’s response to God’s mercy is a song in which he reflects upon his brush with death and thanks him for the gift of life. During his illness he thought that it was only noontime and that it was not time for him to die. A person should die at midnight, not noon. Yet, it seemed that God had decided that his life was over and there was nothing he could do about it. God may have been his shepherd but his life was like a shepherd’s tent that was being torn down and carted off. God was a weaver and Hezekiah was being folded up and the last thread severed. Hezekiah’s song praises God for his protection. In fact, he says, “Those live whom the Lord protects….” God is the giver of health and life. “I desire mercy….”

In Jesus, his disciples see one who is greater than the temple, the Lord of the Sabbath, one who reveals the very heart of God. What does God really want from his disciples? The Pharisees said, “God wants our obedience.” Jesus certainly never disagreed with that. Yet, what does it mean to be obedient? An obedient person is one who listens. God hears prayers and sees tears. God listens. The disciples of Jesus are slow to condemn and quick to listen to the plight of the weak, the poor, the hungry. “I desire mercy….”

Today is the feast day of St. Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614). He grew up without a lot of guidance. He served as a soldier and was a recovering gambler all his life. When his heart finally melted in the presence of God, he tried to join a religious order. They wouldn’t have him because of his bad feet. He became a priest and a nurse. He eventually established the Order of Clerks Regular Ministers to the Sick. They worked in hospitals and assisted soldiers on the battlefield. The red cross on their cassock is the symbol of the order. In fact, a cross once spoke to Camillus and said, "Why are you afraid? Do you not realize that this is not your work but mine?" In that faith Camillus served the sick. Sometimes he was too ill himself to stand and walk. So he crawled to visit the sick.

“If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice….’”

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