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