During World War II there was an Allied weather station located on the coast of Greenland. The ability to possess accurate weather information provided Allied forces a decided advantage over German troops. Midway through the war, it occurred to Allied commanders the Germans might try to take control of the station.
They commissioned a small group of Danish and Norwegian seal hunters to patrol the 500 mile coast of Greenland. Their job would be to alert Allied forces of any Nazi activity in the area. The Nazis arrived and the story was shared in the book, “The Sledge Patrol.” The book details how the seal hunters walked 56 miles in horrible conditions, avoiding Nazi pursuit, to notify Allied forces.
The part of the book I found fascinating was the interplay between evil, the protectors and the innocent. The Inuit people had fully embraced the Beatitudes of the New Testament. It was a lesson learned from Danish and Norwegian missionaries. They were some of the most loving and merciful people on the face of the earth. The Danish and Norwegian seal hunters knew the Inuits could not conceive of war or the threat the Nazis presented. Besides, avoiding capture, the seal hunters had to protect the naive Inuits.
Today’s reading, “I desire mercy not sacrifice,” is read in the midst of a world in conflict. Many of us are caught between wanting to protect the innocent, curbing evil and figuring out how to do this without losing our souls. While mercy may not be the best defense against acts of evil, it cannot be abandoned.
Sometimes rules don’t address the immediate needs of the people is a lesson we can take from this reading. Mercy is addressing the immediate needs so those who hunger might find rest. (Mt. 12: 1-8)