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"Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ "
Jesus declares this not to the crowds, but to the Pharisees
who criticized who Jesus called to be a disciple (A TAX COLLECTOR!!!).
The next two events in the Gospel of Matthew are healings:  A woman who had suffered a hemorrhage for years and a young girl who was sick
(and who actually had died by the time Jesus got there).
All three of the people Jesus changed his direction for and made central in his journey were marginalized members of the community.  Matthew was literally sitting at the side of the road.  The little girl was in her bed and Jesus had to be led to her.  The woman interrupted his journey, and was in real danger for doing so.
A dying girl, in a patriarchal society where boy children were preferred;
a woman who was unclean (bleeding) 'hassling' a strange man in public; and a tax collector,
all received mercy.
Jesus sacrificed his time, his attention, his focus, and his life for these three.
"I desire mercy, not sacrifice."
God sacrifices, so we know mercy.
May we share the mercy we have received from the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ!