Reflection on Matthew 12:1-8:
“Jesus said: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 12:7)
My week took a serious downturn when I learned that the civil authorities had ordered all churches closed due to the spread of COVID-19. I felt demoralized. We at St. Joseph had worked so hard to create a safe environment for all who came to Mass. There was not a single case of the virus being transmitted to someone while attending Mass here. I thought, “How unfair!” My immediate visceral reaction was to find someone to blame. Can I blame the civil authorities for their reaction that painted all churches with such a broad brush? Can I blame those who chose not take precautions against spreading the disease? Can I blame myself for not being more careful? I could feel my anger cutting a very wide swath.
After I allowed my righteous (self-righteous?) indignation to cool a bit, I began to reflect on today’s Gospel. The words that really convicted me were “I desire mercy.” Blaming is easy, but forgiveness is challenging. I am reading “The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable,” by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt, and I read this today: “Forgiveness is not a gift you give to others; it’s something you do for yourself.” (pg. 16) Is my anger making me a better person? No. Is it bringing me closer to God or His people? No.
It is time to let go of my anger, and instead embrace mercy and forgiveness, and allow myself to experience compassion for all who are suffering as a result of the coronavirus: including the sick and dying, those at risk of getting the disease, those who are suffering economically. Mercy, forgiveness and compassion might be the best gifts I can give myself as I mourn the closing of churches.
Peace, health and safety to you all,