‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’


Are we Catholics not instructed to make sacrifices during Lent? Are we not expected to make sacrifices that enhance the welfare of our family? Does not Christ’s command to pick up our cross and follow Him involve a sacrifice? Are these examples of sacrifice not contradicting Matthew 9:13 (i. e., ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’)?


No. In the context I’d say Jesus means that he doesn’t want us to suffer for our sins, he wants to forgive us. Similarly he wants us to forgive each other. If you read the whole passage you’ll see people were upset that he was dining with sinners. In short, “Jesus why are you being so darn nice to them?”. And Jesus said “I don’t want to punish people and make them suffer (sacrifice), I want to forgive them and I want them to he able to move on (mercy).”


Jesus is quoting Hosea 6:6:
“Sacrifice” here refers to animal sacrifices in the Temple. The meaning, as I understand it – both when Hosea says it and when Jesus says it – is that outward displays of religious observance are not pleasing to God unless they are accompanied by our everyday behavior, in our family and social environment, that reflects our obedience to God’s will.






Personally I never thought of DIRECTLY comparing and contrasting these two verse because they aren’t really trying to teach the same thing.

In Matthew 9:13 when Jesus speaks of mercy here he is speaking of having mercy on the sinners and tax collectors. These are the people that the Pharisees considered unclean and untouchable because of the Mosaic Law. The sacrifice Jesus does not want is when the Mosaic Law gets in the way of a person reaching out to the sick or the poor with divine mercy.

In Matthew 16:24 Jesus is telling us that suffering and self denial are central to the Christian life.

If you still want to put these two verses together I would say look at Mother Theresa as the perfect example here. Having that image it is easy to see that quite often Jesus command for self sacrifice (Matthew 16:24) is what is needed in order to fulfill Jesus command for mercy in Matthew 9:13.

Hope this helps,

God Bless


God is speaking about “empty” sacrifices without a heart turned to God in sincere repentance. God hates hypocrisy.


During Lent we dwell on all Jesus went through for us.,from the time He entered Jerusalem up until He was nailed to that tree. The awful things that were done to Him before and when He started that walk to His crucifixion …How little are our troubles compared to what Jesus went through to open the gates of heaven for us. Yes Jesus desires mercy and gives it freely to those who come to Him He wants us to also show mercy to our sisters and brothers who are lost. God bless you.:butterfly:


Who did Jesus say that to, and why?



The prophet was speaking to an attitude of rigid unforgiveness and intolerance in Israel. He was not saying he did not want the burnt offerings, but that there should be acknowledgement of God, and His mercy rather than heartless compliance with the Law.

6For I desire mercy (LOVE), not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6

Jesus brings this verse forward to the Pharisees:
telling them to go learn what God
meant when he said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 12:7), Jesus and his disciples had picked grain and eaten it on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Law of Moses by working on the Sabbath. Jesus insisted he and his disciples were innocent (the Pharisees didn’t understand the heart of God’s law).

When we fast and make sacrifices, we do so out of love, and mercy. These actions are based upon our relationship and devotion to God. They are not just going through the motions and having a form of godliness without the power thereof.


To answer your question, the quote originally comes from Hosea 6:6. The Hebrew text reads as “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The Septuagint reads as Jesus quoted it, “I desire mercy not sacrifice …” Both are somewhat instructive. Hosea is addressing the Northern kingdom of Israel, who upon its founding began state sponsored idol worship of a cow idol in Samaria as well as worshipping the Canaanite baals. They basically worshipped God alongside many other false gods. They wanted to claim the promises of Abraham, while denying the God of Israel. They would offer sacrifices to God, all the while serving other gods. God is warning them through Hosea of the coming judgment on the nation of Israel, passionately calling for them to return to him. In this sentence, God is saying that he wants their hearts, not their empty deeds. It can also be read that God wants to provide his mercy rather on those who place their faith in him rather than receive the false piety of those whose hearts are far from him.

When Jesus uses this verse in context in Matthew 9, he is rebuking the Pharisees who in their pride refuse to rejoice over the repentance of sinners, not realizing that they too require mercy. In Matthew 12, the Pharisees are complaining that the disciples are making use of the laws for allowing the poor to glean in the fields, as if they had broken the Sabbath, mistaking their traditions for what counts as work as breaking the Sabbath law. Here Jesus is rebuking them for ignoring the true intent of the law (such as those who offered burnt sacrifices in Hosea’s day while still serving other Gods).

The use of Hosea 6:6 is not at all contradictory to Christ’s command to carry our cross. Frequently, when Jesus or Paul quotes a verse to make a point, it is a good practice to read the original context of that quote so that you can understand where they are going with it.


The distinction that Jesus, quoting OT verses, wants to make is that love is the heart and soul of our faith, the heart and soul of our own justice, that which makes us truly right in God’s eyes. We can think we’re “holy”, be as law-abiding or legalist as possible, even have a faith that can move mountains (1 Cor 13), and yet be worth nothing unless we love. Anything we do should be motivated by love, including sacrifices that we make, because sacrifices can be done strictly out of a sense of fear or pride or self-seeking. I like the way St Basil of Cesarea once described this relationship:
"If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children. "


When Jesus says I desire mercy not sacrifice, in context He’s talking about animal sacrifice which really did nothing with respect to sin.

As Paul said Provided we suffer counts greatly. That comes from the HS, which ultimately comes from Jesus


Yes exactly, it was also prophetic of the fact the Old Covenant ritual sacrifices were coming to an end in AD 70 with the total destruction of the Second Temple.


St Paul said pretty much the same thing when he said, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:3)


Let’s open the passage:

(St. Matthew 9:1-13) …And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee. 3 And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: He blasphemeth. 4 And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said: Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then said he to the man sick of palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house… 11 And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners? 12 But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill. 13 Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.

Compare this passage with Ezekiel 18–God is about having Mercy for those who repent from their sin (give up evil and turn (back) to God) and seek God’s Mercy and Love.

Compare also with Hebrews 10:1-39–God’s Mercy and Love is demonstrated by His Gift of Himself, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. This “Gift/Sacrifice” was necessary because of the impending Wrath (God’s Justice) demanded expiation (atonement for the sin/s against God and Creation).

Our sacrifice is not necessary for God’s Salvific Plan… other than being offered up in Christ:

24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church: (Colossians 1)

So while God desires not sacrifice or holocaust, we can get closer to Him through offering our lives (both the good and bad experiences) in Christ, as St. Paul was Inspired to do and Teach.

Maran atha!



So then we shouldn’t do it as an offering/sacrifice but out of mercy. Originally fasting meant that the food you can no longer eat you give to the poor. Same with the money you save from it etc…


As one poster has already said, the quote in its immediacy, is directed to animal sacrifice.
I have a little different understanding. In a loving relationship, there is no such thing as sacrifice, at least in the sense of choosing between alternating “actions”. For instance, a father gives up “sacrifices” his afternoon round of golf to attend his child’s piano recital at school. This isn’t a sacrifice, it is a chosen action borne of love. A husband doesn’t sacrifice (whatever) for his wife if the action he chooses is an expression of his love and commitment for and to her.
I know this isn’t official teaching, but I hear Jesus’ words as saying recognize the dignity of all others, and choose to act in a loving manner, rather than choosing selfish “actions” that are counter productive to the intent of The Father when he created you. Just my way of seeing things. And my $.02


I guess that all Christian sacrifices can be thought of as an act of love. How do we distinguish between the two? I would say that Christian sacrifice is a specific domain of of love and involves some type of discomfort, sense of loss, or even suffering.


As in my above post example, there is some suffering, discomfort, and/or sense of loss in a father giving up a pleasurable afternoon to listen to a bunch of 6 and 7 years olds bang on a piano for two hours. You can apply that to any and all actions of Catholic parents and people who incur “discomfort” for the sake of another. It isn’t however, a sacrifice in the terms people commonly accept.


Mercy - is geared towards being compassionate and caring toward one another.

Sacrifice - is like going through the motions, before others - sounding a trumpet -


When does the Mosaic Law “get in the way of a person reaching out to the sick or the poor with divine mercy”? To this day, such behavior is MANDATED by the Mosaic Law, including on the Sabbath.

Sinners deserve mercy, but tax collectors are the one group toward which we should NOT have mercy.

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