Immersed in Christ: June 13, 2020
Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
In Matthew 5: 33-37 Jesus rewrites the commandment “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16), expanded in Leviticus (19:11-12) to “You shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another [or] swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God.” Jesus adds: “but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.”
Jesus takes us far beyond this. First he says not to swear by any creature in heaven or on earth, because that is indirectly to swear by God the Creator and Ruler of all things. Nor should we swear by anything in ourselves — not by our “head, for you cannot make one hair white or black” — or logically, by our “honor” or anything else presumed to have importance for us (such as, “I swear on my mother’s grave”), because nothing in us or dear to us has any ultimate importance except from its relationship to God. In fact, he says, “Do not swear at all.… Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”
Is Jesus making a “rule” here? No. He is simply teaching us to be and to live on the level of God. That is his New Law. His commandment is not just to avoid the “sin” of speaking falsely or irreverently. He wants us to realize that every word we speak carries the sacredness of the words of God, not only because we are made in God’s image, being able to utter rational words, but because we are divine, endowed with God’s life and Spirit. Our words should be as true and reliable as the words of God himself (see Isaiah 55:10-11).
The author of Hebrews (6:13-16) acknowledges the cultural practice: “Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and an oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute.” Jesus is saying that if we assume our words should need more validation than God’s do, we are implicitly denying we are divine!
1 Kings 19:19-21 shows us the importance of words as commitment. Elisha, when called, must respond. And Elijah will accept only immediate, unconditional and undivided response to his call. Jesus is the same. He will not accept anyone as a disciple whose commitment is divided between him and possessions, family ties, social customs, or the preservation of life itself (see Matthew 8:19-22; 19:21; Luke 14:33).
Our “words” of response and commitment create us. Like the words of God who said at creation, “Let there be… And it was so” (Genesis 1:1-30), when we speak words of free choice we become what we choose to be: honest or dishonest, loving or hateful, liars or reliable. The choice Jesus calls us to make at Baptism is radical and all-inclusive. The Responsorial Psalm declares it: “You are my inheritance, O Lord” (Psalm 16). We live for nothing else but him. That is our final word.
Initiative: Be a prophet: Let every “word” you speak — verbally or in action — bear witness to the values of Jesus Christ.