Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Louisville's Slugger Stadium
Lectionary: 381

Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."



Citizens of the United States have been quarreling for many years about the care of the sick. Should we show them mercy or justice? 

Mercy would care for the sick to the best of our ability, regardless of their worth as citizens or their ability to pay. Justice would apportion care to the sick, reserving the best treatment for the deserving and bestowing leftover resources upon the rest. 

There are risk with both kinds. Mercy toward all the sick costs more than we're presently prepared to pay. It cuts into other budgets like defense, security, the prisons and recreation. 

Justice risks inadequate care for millions of people with the consequent loss of practice that daily improves our medical care for rich and poor alike. If we lavished our research dollars only on the deserving -- who are chosen by some kind of politically-shaped process, presumably by wealth -- our doctors could not treat the illnesses that are common to everyone. They might not be prepared to deal with certain diseases, especially as they trickle up from prisons and poor neighborhoods into the elite parts of town.

When I go about the VA hospital, for instance, I often don gloves and gown to visit certain persons with contagious diseases. If the Veteran is not disposed to see the chaplain at this time, I might wear those safeguards for only a minute or two before I discard them. It seems like a waste, but a necessary one. 

If we had to cut corners, as is done in poorer nations, I might reuse some of that protective garb, carrying MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) from one room to the next. 

In a segregated system, medical people -- doctors, nurses, and technicians of every sort -- are apportioned to the more and less qualified. Institutions for the poor do not pay as well as those for the wealthy; there is a continual "brain drain" as the best and brightest seek higher salaries. 

We're already seeing a coming apart in our society, between the haves and have-nots. A health care system built for the deserving is neither merciful nor just. 

Creating and maintaining a health care system demands more than justice, and more than sacrifice. If people say, "I am willing to make sacrifice." it helps but without the unstrained quality of mercy it does not go far. They make sacrifice as long as they see others doing the same. The moment they see someone cutting corners or hoarding resources, they lose heart and fall back to the more familiar ways of hedging, hiding and securing, 

I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

Our health care system, with its astonishing technologies and amazing, daily discoveries of better protocols and procedures, costs more than we can afford. Only mercy can avoid the impending crisis. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.