Mercy, not Sacrifice

And Spirit counselled me, “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13)
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A path winds through the rocky terrain of Oak Flat. There are green bushes along the side of the path and a bright blue sky.

Blessing and mercy surround me at Oak Flat: the blessing of fire on cold mornings, of bird song in quiet moments, the eerie comfort of the coyote chorus at dusk. The mercy of the earth saying yes to sun and rain, uncurling green under winter-withered stems. The mercy of Grandmother Oak, wise in resilience, profligate in feeding her children.

What has sacrifice to do with this blessing, this mercy? If international interests prevail in extracting copper from deep beneath the surface where water is purified and holy beings dwell, Oak Flat herself will be the sacrifice.

A story haunts me, a parable told to a powerful king by a long-ago prophet: “A wealthy man, entertaining guests, was loath to sacrifice one of his own flock for their feast. Instead, he helped himself to the single cherished lamb of his poor neighbour. What should his punishment be?” 

“Show that man no mercy!” said the king.

“You are the man,” said the prophet. For the king, who had women all around, had helped himself to the sole beloved wife of another man, and killed her husband to cover his crime. And the king heard the words of the prophet and repented. 

Who are those willing to sacrifice the sacred land of Indigenous people to benefit the wealthy of the world? Where is mercy in the plotting of giant multinational corporations to pillage and destroy what is infinitely precious to others?

Where is mercy for Crow, Coyote, and Hummingbird? Where is mercy for Mesquite, Yucca, and Oak?

Must Oak Flat become yet another sacrifice zone in the trail of broken treaties, broken promises, broken landscapes? What is proposed is not just destruction, but desecration of the sacred; not just theft but rape, violent penetration of the self-giving mother, leaving her barren, unable to feed her children, or cleanse them with her healing springs, or heal them with the medicine that grows naturally from her body. 

The prophets have spoken, and are speaking, counselling mercy, not just in the words of Wendsler Nosie and the Apache Stronghold, but through the wind singing in the trees and the all-seeing sky. They whisper their eternal purpose.  

I came to walk with eyes and heart open at Oak Flat. I have been surprised by beauty, surrounded by grace. I surrender to a peace deeper than all the wealth the world can offer. To live for a time on this hallowed ground is to begin to learn what it means that Creator Spirit desires mercy, not sacrifice.

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