Matthew 12:7

But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.
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George Leo Haydock

AD 1849
Mercy, and not sacrifice. (Osee vi. 6.) The meaning of this is, if you then approve of the mercy of the high priest, who refreshed the famished fugitive David, why do you condemn my disciples? (St. Jerome)

Hilary of Poitiers

AD 368
In order to show that this appearance of his work anticipated all the power of things to come, he added, “If you understood what the saying means: ‘I want mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would never have condemned the blameless.” The business of our salvation lies not in sacrifice but in mercy. When law is made void, we are saved by the goodness of God. If they had understood the grace of this statement, they would never have condemned the blameless. They would not have condemned the apostles whom they were going to accuse falsely, out of envy, of transgressing the law. When the ancient practice of sacrifices was stopped, the strangeness of mercy became more clearly known. Had this been known, they would not have thought that the Lord of the sabbath was confined by the law of the sabbath. ...

John Chrysostom

AD 407
Then, because to the hearers it would seem harsh, He quickly draws a veil over it, giving His discourse, as before, a lenient turn, yet even so expressing Himself with a rebuke. Do you see how again He inclines His speech to lenity, yet again shows them to be out of the reach of lenity? For you would not have condemned, says He, the guiltless. Before indeed He inferred the same from what is said of the priests, in the words, they are guiltless; but here He states it on His own authority; or rather, this too is out of the law, for He was quoting a prophetic saying. Hosea 6:6 ...

John Chrysostom

AD 407
The faithful are more than priests. For the Lord of the temple himself has come to them. The Truth personally has arrived, not merely the image of the truth. So he could say, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here!” Nevertheless, great as the sayings were which they heard, they made no reply, for they were inattentive to the coming salvation of humanity. Then, because it might otherwise seem harsh to his hearers, Jesus quickly drew a veil over his discourse, giving it a lenient turn, yet even then conveying a sharp admonition: “If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Do you see once again how his speech is inclined toward leniency, yet showing the priests themselves to be in need of leniency? The Gospel of Matthew, Homily ...

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. - 2 Peter 1:20

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