"I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice"
Fr. Chris, when Christ says to the Pharisees, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." What is He saying exactly?
             The Holy Scriptures Christ is quoting here come from the Prophecy of Hosea (6:6).  This prophecy is best understood first in the context of the entire sentence, then in the whole book of Hosea.  The Prophet Hosea hears from God:  "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."  Ultimately, God wants us to have a relationship with Him.  He is not a God that is just looking for blind followers or people who perform empty rituals.  Rather, like it says in Psalm 50, "the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and humbled heart, You [God] will not despise."  To have this relationship, we must repent and turn back toward God.  Then, we must be steadfast.   Another word for mercy is steadfast love-a love that does not wane, but only grows stronger.
          When taken in the context of the entire prophecy, this quote brings in another depth of meaning.  In the prophecy of Hosea, God uses the prophet to display to His people what steadfast love looks like.  He has Hosea marry a harlot, who constantly commits adultery and then comes back to the marriage.  Hosea is to love her steadfastly-never waning, even when she embarrasses him.  Hosea's example reveals God's love for mankind.  It shows just how faithful God is to us, even though we constantly fall away from Him in sins.  We are to be strengthened and transfigured by God's Love, returning that love freely and steadfastly to the end.  Thus, the phrase, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" reveals the importance of how we love God.  Not with lip service, but with our whole hearts and beings!