The Gospel for today comes from Matthew 9:10-17 and is related to the notion of Lenten sacrifice. When the Pharisees complain to Jesus about him sitting with tax collectors and sinners, he says, ”Learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ “
I grew up in the era of giving things up for Lent. Even just yesterday, someone asked me what I am going to give up this year. My list of things given up is long and merciless over the years — no yelling at my brothers, no chocolate, no TV, no movies. My family all still remembers the year I gave up Diet Coke, and begged never to suffer through that again.
More recently, I’ve turned the “giving up” practice into “doing something good” instead. For example, I’ll make a commitment to volunteer at the Food Bank once a week during Lent, or increase my volunteer hours at Assistance League, or help out at a parish activity. This year, meaningful and critical opportunities for service abound about DACA, immigration, children’s health and education. It seems like the chance to reflect God’s mercy in Lent is even more important now when we do not see mercy and justice in the people and institutions that usually provide them. Giving up chocolate hurt, but it didn’t help. I’m ready to help.