15 June 2019. Saturday, Week 10

Saturday of Week 10

1st Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14ff.

A new order replaces the old. We are ambassadors for Christ

From now on, brethren, we regard nobody from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Responsorial: Psalm 102:1-4, 8-9, 11-12

Response: The Lord is kind and merciful

My soul, give thanks to the Lord,
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings. (R./)
It is he who forgives all your guilt,
who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with love and compassion. (R./)
The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
His wrath will come to an end;
he will not be angry for ever. (R./)
For as the heavens are high above the earth
so strong is his love for those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west
so far does he remove our sins. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 5:33ff.

Speak with a simple “Yes” or “No.” Do not swear oaths

Jesus said to his disciples,
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”


Growing up in Christ

Some Bible texts suggest that we are already saved, fully transformed, beyond any danger of sin. St Paul projects his thoughts forward to imagine the kingdom of God flourishing on earth. He writes, “Since one died for all, all have died” and, “The old order has passed away; now all is new.” But more typically, he urges us to persevere, to hold fast to the grace we have received. Jesus offers many guidelines for growth in the spiritual life. Ultimately, with the help of God’s grace, we are to be “perfect, as the heavenly Father is perfect.”
The kingdom of God is a glorious ideal, but we wonder how much of this idealism is practicable, in this world of ours? For example, “Do not swear at all!” Some Christians try to follow this literally, and keep their speech simple and exact, honest and factual. But most people need to go well beyond a crisp “Yes” or an absolute “No.” We consider it fair to have our ID card checked out, our driver’s license verified, and in court are willing to swear on the Bible that our words are true. We and our world are not yet fully and literally there, in kingdom mode.
However, we are already sealed and anointed by the Spirit who is the pledge of eternal life. By the grace of God we belong to that new creation, but we also need God’s patience and forgiveness as we stumble on our pilgrim way towards the Kingdom. We may consider ourselves as still growing up in Christ. We are wounded healers, and God has not finished with us yet.

What’s wrong with oaths?

Jesus rejects the taking of oaths, the kind of swearing that seeks to control God for one’s own purposes, swearing by heaven, God’s throne, or by earth, God’s footstool, or by Jerusalem, the city of God. The wrongness of taking the name of God in a trivial way was recognised in Jewish tradition, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”.
What’s wrong with swearing that something is true, or making a vow to do something? Perhaps Jesus did not mean us to refuse to swear in court. (In fact, he himself replied under oath at his trial in Jerusalem, Matt 26:64). Wedding ceremonies would be rather limp if spouses were not allowed make vows of fidelity to each other! Jesus means that we should be totally trustworthy and completely honest, whatever the circumstances. We should hardly ever need to swear an oath or make a vow, if we are honest people who value the truth.
Jesus wants our YES to mean YES and NO to mean NO. We aim to be reliable and keep our promises, that is, to live with integrity. If most people were like that, there would be no need for vows or oaths. It should be enough to speak on our word of honour. If we break our word of honour, we would deserve the penalty is attached to such a lie. What a pity that, with the legal insistence on swearing under oath, the sin of perjury seems to be taken lightly in our courts and tribunals.


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