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'It is Mercy that I Want and Not Sacrifice'

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 8, 2008 (Zenit.org)-- Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the center of the Liturgy of the Word this Sunday there is an expression of the prophet Hosea that Jesus takes up again in the Gospel: "I want love and not sacrifice, knowledge of God more than holocausts" (Hs 6:6).

We have a key word here, one that opens for us the door to the heart of sacred Scripture. The context in which Jesus makes it his own, is the call of Matthew, a "publican" by profession, a tax collector for the imperial Roman authorities: Because of this he was considered a public sinner by the Jews.

Called while he was sitting on the tax collector's bench -- this scene is beautifully depicted in a celebrated painting of Caravaggio -- Jesus goes to Matthew's house with his disciples and sits down to dinner with other publicans. To the scandalized Pharisees Jesus replies: "The healthy do not need the doctor but the sick do ... I have not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Mt 9:12-13).

The Evangelist Matthew, who is always attentive to the link between the Old and the New Testament, puts the words of Hosea's prophecy on Jesus' lips: "Go, therefore, and learn the meaning of the words: 'It is mercy that I want and not sacrifice.'"

The importance of this expression of the prophet is such that the Lord repeats it again in another context, in regard to the observance of the Sabbath (cf. Mt 12:1-8). Even in this context he assumes the responsibility for the interpretation of this precept, revealing himself as the "Lord" of the legal institutions themselves.

Turning to the Pharisees he adds: "If you would have understood the meaning of the words 'It is mercy that I want and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned those who were without fault" (Mt 12:7). So, in this pronouncement of Hosea Jesus, the Word made man, is fully rediscovered, so to speak.

He made these words his own with all of his heart and he realized them in his conduct even at the cost of vexing the leaders of his people. This word of God has reached us, through the Gospels, as one of the syntheses of the entire Christian message: True religion consists in the love of God and neighbor. This is what gives liturgical worship and the observance of the precepts their value.

Turning now to the Virgin Mary, let us ask through her intercession always to live in the joy of the Christian experience. May the Mother of Mercy, the Madonna, awaken in us the sentiments of filial abandonment to God, who is infinite mercy; may she help us to make our own the prayer that St. Augustine formulates in a famous passage of the "Confessions": "Have mercy on me, Lord! See, I do not hide my wounds: You are my doctor, I am the sick one; you are merciful, I am miserable. All of my hope is placed in your great mercy" (X, 28, 39; 29, 40).

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Angelus, especially the group of pilgrims from Malmö in Sweden. I pray that your visit to Rome may strengthen your faith and deepen your love for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. In this Sunday's Gospel, we hear how Jesus called Matthew, the tax collector. Immediately Matthew rose and became a follower of our Lord. Let us be prepared to turn away from everything that separates us from God, so that we, too, can respond generously to his call. Upon all of you here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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