Mark 10: 1-12

He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved

Mercy and Law

Our readings today help us privilege mercy over law. So says the psalmist: “the Lord is kind and merciful”.

In today’s gospel the Pharisees present Jesus with a test of the Hebrew law: is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife? While Jesus notes the law does provide for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus chooses a different path here. In the setting of Mark’s gospel, divorce would marginalize the wife to a life of poverty and shame. Rather than cite the law on its own merit, perhaps disconnected from particular context, Jesus prioritizes the greater good– care for the woman who would be impoverished, shamed, and marginalized by this action.

Jesus’ answer here is worth great consideration for us, in our own setting. Our newspapers are rife with this very same deliberation: law vs. mercy. And in my own life, in my own day, I encounter this same choice. What do I privilege when faced with the judgment between law and mercy, a choice I face in both obvious and subtle ways. Do I privilege what is outlined by law or custom, or is there a greater good I am missing, or a riskier choice I lack the courage to make? Lord, grant me the wisdom and strength to seek the greater good this day, which often supersedes the law and requires of me true religious faith.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all my being bless God’s name: bless the Lord and forget not God’s benefits.

Merciful and gracious is our God: slow to anger and boundless in kindness.

—Psalm 103