“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 12:7)
What the Pharisees failed to understand was that the intent of the Old Testament law was always bent towards mercy, not punishment. When God was giving the law to Moses, he described himself as “merciful” (Exodus 34:6). Law always needs mercy to be fair. Victor Hugo captured this so well in Les Miserables. He contrasted the actions of the bishop Myriel, who "bought Jean Valjean's soul for God" with silver candlesticks, to the actions of officer Javert, who tirelessly pursued Valjean for the due punishment of the law. We are called to be like this bishop, offering divine mercy to those who need it—even when it costs us.
Prayer – Merciful God, help me to extend your offer of mercy to others—and be merciful to me, too, I pray.