Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Something greater than the temple is here.” The temple is where the Jews would go to worship God. It was the most important place in their religion and culture. For Jesus to say that there is something greater would have been a shock and an offense to those who don’t understand.
How could it be that something greater than the temple was there? If the temple was where God desired to be worshiped, then what would be greater could only be God Himself. This is one of the subtle ways that Jesus reveals His true identity to His disciples and enemies alike. And He uses this authority to reveal something of God’s true law. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
This is a theme throughout the Old Testament, and yet the Jews continue to misunderstand. Sacrifice without mercy is like works without faith. Both are empty when the heart isn’t doing them out of repentance and fear/love of God.
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice” is a little misleading though, because God does desire sacrifice. Why else would Jesus have sacrificed Himself for us? But it was out of mercy that He did sacrifice Himself. The former is the condition of the latter.
The temple was destroyed a few decades after Jesus’s death, but something greater remains. He descends to us in every Mass. Every encounter with the Eucharist is a face-to-face encounter with the God of the universe. Are our hearts ready for that? Or do we participate in the sacrifice of the mass out of habit or obligation? As we approach our Sunday celebration, take this question to prayer. How does mercy dispose me to offer myself to Jesus as He has offered Himself to me?
-Amanda Benner, Director of Evangelization