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Saturday – Tenth week – OT1
Readings: 2 Cor 5:14-21; Mt 5:33-37.
1/ First Reading: RSV 2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply `Yes’ or `No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
I. THEME: To sincerely love each other.
We are living in an age during which all people’s relationships are in crisis. People continually violate what they promise with God and others. Look at leaders of nation, before they are selected, they promise to do many good things for people; but after they are selected, they don’t fulfill their promises. Similarly in the areas of economy and financial, the economic crisis of the world happens because so many C.E.O of companies and banks took the money of their government and people as their own. Same thing happen in the familial life, many couples live together without married license and wedding. Even they promised before God, more than fifty percent of marriage ends up in divorce. Lastly, in the priestly and the consecrated life, many of men and women gave up their vows because they can’t keep them. Does the vow have any value in today society? Can God still believe in what people promise?
Today readings concentrate on the topic that people must sincerely love God and others. In the first reading, Paul advised the Corinthian faithful to understand and to remain in God’s love before they can announce this love and conquer others’ soul for God. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples that they have no need to swear at all; but to train themselves to always speak, live and witness for the truth. Simply speaking, “Let what you say be simply `Yes’ or `No’.” Do not add anything more to it.
1/ Reading I: Whoever in Christ, he is the new creature.
1.1/ God’s love should transform people: When people love each other, they love everything that belong to their beloved; even things that they hate or don’t concern, now become lovable. The Vietnamese adages, though exaggerated, but highlight some of this point when describing bad habits of women, such as: “She used to eat at market places, but her husband says that she shall not eat a lots at home… She used to snore during her sleep, but her husband says she creates fun for the house.” Similarly, when people have God’s love, they can tolerate others’ weakness or bad habits.
(1) To God: St. Paul advised the Corinthian faithful: Christ “died for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” In our life, if the saving of one from death can’t be repaid, how can one repay Christ for his death so that he can live forever? St. Paul felt the deep of Christ’s love for him when he cried out: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
(2) To others: If we see others under human view, we shall not feel the need to love and to sacrifice for them; but if we see under God’s view, we shall easily love and sacrifice for them because all of us are brothers and sisters who have the same Father and were redeemed by Christ’s sacred blood. When one of our brothers and sister is lost, God shall not happy. If we feel of God’s sadness, we shall be ready to conquer that soul back to God. Paul probably had this feeling when he said, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer.Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”
1.2/ The mission of reconciliation: Once were permeated with God’s love, the disciples are sent out to witness for this love. First of all, they must use the Gospel to speak to people about God’s love for them. Secondly, they must express this love by their witnessed life of loving and helping others. The process of reconciliation always has two dimensions:
(1) People reconcile with God: Through Christ, people are reconciled with God because Christ takes away people’s sins against God. Christ himself gave this mission of reconciliation to his disciples, as Paul explained: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” Two disciples’ duties are to preach about God’s mercy and to live in a way that helps people to recognize God’s love for them and their sins against God. These two things shall help people to come to the stall to reconcile with God.
(2) People reconcile with others: Sins aren’t only violations against God but also others. Therefore, people must reconcile and forgive others after they are forgiven by God and reconciled with Him.
2/ Gospel: Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
2.1/ Don’t swear at all: Jesus taught his disciples: “Again 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.”
First, this is Jesus’ ideal teachings for his disciples in chapter five of the Gospel according to St. Matthews. Laws are only the minimum requirement to prevent people from sinning; but to become Jesus’ disciples, he demands people to advance more than keeping of the laws. In today passage, Jesus taught his disciples to always be faithful in words and deeds. To understand these words, we need to differentiate at least two reasons why people use God’s name to swear:
(1) Swearing without thinking: Some people have a tendency to call the names of God, the Blessed Mother and the saint without a cause; for example, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.” They call these names without thinking of them. This is a sin that violates the second commandment. The Jewish people don’t dare to call God’s name (Yahweh), but substitute it with other titles. Some people used to take God’s name to swear even though the matter isn’t important or no one makes them to swear.
(2) Swearing with calculation: Some swear but avoid to use God’s name because they know that the law requires them to do when they swore in God’s name; they point to either heaven or earth or the temple or their head as Jesus listed today so that they don’t have to keep their oath. Modern people think if they cross their pointed and middle fingers when they swear, their oath have no value. They forget that God is everywhere and fathoms all their thinking; they can’t point to anything to swear and not to keep their oath because all things in this universe belong to God.
Can a believer swear in the public courts? First, we need to understand that if we live in a good world or community, we don’t need to swear at all. As the Essenes and Quakers, they live in a closed community or village; they trust each other without swearing. But the believers live in a world full of falsities, so they must follow the court’s procedure to protect both their and other’s right. Moreover, the oath in the court is in the name of the national constitution, not in God’s name.
2.2/ Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
A Jesus’ disciple must always speak, live and witness for the truth. If a person is always faithful in all matter, his words is enough for others to believe without a need of an oath. Buth if a person is unfaithful, no matter how much and how solemny he swears, his words mean nothing. Jesus wanted to teach his disciples that they need to train in order to be faithful than the empty promises in their mouth.
Another serious matter is the habit of backbiting and tale-bearing to defame others. This can be a serious sin and needs to be terminated right away. We hardly estimate the damages which our backbiting or tale-bearing can cause for others, sometimes it can destroy other’s life. Usually, the tale-bearers add more things in to increase their story’s attraction without paying attention to damages which can happen to others. Even so, Jesus warned his disciples, “Anything more is from the evil one.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God’s love is the first thing we need to have before we can sincerely love others. If we don’t have this love, it is easy for us to betray each other.
– Remember that we are Christ’s disciples; we must practice to live in a way that we always speak and be witnesses for the truth. If we always do that, swearing isn’t necessary.