Lectio Divina: Matthew 5:33-37
1) Opening prayer
God of wisdom and love,
source of all good,
send Your Spirit to teach us Your truth
and guide our actions
in Your way of peace.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 5:33-37
Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more is from the Evil One."
• In today’s Gospel, Jesus rereads the commandment: “Do not commit perjury.” And here also He surpasses the letter, concerning the spirit of the law, and seeks to indicate the ultimate goal of this commandment: to attain total transparency in relationships among people. Here we can apply what we said concerning the two commandments “Do not kill” and “Do not commit adultery.” It is a question of a new way of interpreting and setting into practice the law of Moses, starting from the new experience of God the Father which Jesus has brought to us. He rereads the law beginning with the intention that God had in proclaiming it centuries ago on Mount Sinai.
• Matthew 5:33: It was said to our ancestors: you must not swear. The Law of the Old Testament said, “Do not commit perjury” and it added that the person should swear for the Lord. In the Psalms it is said that “one can go up to the Mountain of Yahweh and reach the holy place, if he has innocent hands and a pure heart, and does not confide in idols, nor swear in order to deceive”(Ps 24:4). The same thing is said in other parts of the Old Testament (Eccl 5:3-4), because one must be able to trust the words of others. In order to promote this reciprocal trust, tradition had invented the help of the oath. In order to strengthen one’s own word, the person would swear on someone or on something which was greater than he and who could punish him if he did not do what he had promised. Things continue to be like this up to the present time. Whether in the Church or in society, there are some moments and occasions which demand a solemn oath from people. In the final analysis, the oath is the expression of the conviction that nobody can completely trust the word of another.
• Matthew 5:34-36: But I say to you: do not swear. Jesus wants to heal this defect. It is not enough “not to swear.” He goes beyond and affirms: “But I say to you: do not swear at all: either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by earth, since that is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need to say is ‘Yes’ if you mean yes, and ‘No’ if you mean no. Anything more than this comes from the Evil One.”
They would swear on heaven and on earth, on the city of Jerusalem, on their own head. Jesus shows that all that does not cure the pain and suffering from the lack of transparency and trust among people. What is the solution which He proposes?
• Matthew 5:37: Let your speech be yes, yes; no, no. The solution which God proposes is the following: Let your speech be yes, yes; no, no; anything more than this comes from the Evil One. He proposes a radical and total honesty. Nothing more. Anything more that you say comes from the Evil One. Here again, we are confronted with an objective which will always remain in our mind and which we will never succeed in fulfilling completely. It is another expression of the new ideal of justice which Jesus proposes: “to be perfect like the Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). Jesus uproots any attempt to create the conviction that I am saved because I observe the law. Nobody can merit God’s grace, because otherwise it would not be a grace. We observe the Law, not in order to merit salvation, but in order to thank with all our heart for the immense gratuitous goodness of God, who accepts us and saves us without any merit on our part.
4) Personal questions
• How honest is my speech? How honest am I with myself as I answer that?
• Is Jesus addressing intent in this instruction, to be trustworthy without external aids?
• Or is He addressing the hypocrisy of having one truth when speaking and another when under oath?
• Or is He giving instructions to not do a physical act, as one might be asked to do in a modern courtroom?
5) Concluding Prayer
I bless Yahweh who is my counselor,
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep Yahweh before me always,
for with Him at my right hand, nothing can shake me.