Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 (1 Kgs 19:19-21)

Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat,
as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen;
he was following the twelfth.
Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him.
Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said,
"Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,
and I will follow you."
Elijah answered, "Go back!
Have I done anything to you?"
Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them;
he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh,
and gave it to his people to eat.
Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant.
Gospel (Mt 5:33-37)
 

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.


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: A Jesus’ disciple must be loyal to his oath with God and others.          

            We are living in an age which human beings’ relationships are in crisis; people unceasingly violate their promises to God and others. For examples, before the election, the leaders of nation promised to people many things; but after they were elected, they didn’t do much as they promised. Similarly in the area of economy and finance, the worldly economical crisis is happening because many banks and companies illegally took the government and people’s money as their own. It is the same in familial life, many couples live together without a marriage contract nor a wedding. Even if they swore before God, they still divorced; more than half of Catholic couples ended up in divorce. Same thing happened in priestly and religious vocation, many of them terminated their vows or violated what they promised.

            Today readings concentrate on teaching people to be faithful to what they promised without a need of swearing. In the first reading, when was called by the prophet Elijah, Elishah knew that it is the calling from God, he asked Elijah’s permission to say good-bye to his parent. Then he broke the yoke and used it as wood to burn his offering to God. This act showed his determination to follow Elijah without looking back. In the Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples that they have no need to swear, but must train themselves to tell, to live and to witness for the truth. Jesus simply taught, “Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more is from the evil one.”

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: A prophet must leave all things behind and faithfully follows God.

1.1/ Following God’s words, Elijah selected Elishah as his replacement: Today passage reported Elishah’s vocation. Listening to God’s words, the prophet Elijah selected Elishah and trained him to continue his prophetic mission. Twelve yoke of oxen showed Elishah belonged to a very rich family because a rich family has only two or three oxen. When Elijah threw his cloak over Elishah, Elishah instantly recognized this action. It is equivalent to “vestition” ceremony in the beginning of the “novitiate” year of the religious orders. Elishah’s petition is normal because he must say good-bye to his parent. Elijah’s answer is difficult to understand; he might want to say, “I shall not prevent you to do that!”

1.2/ Elishah’s firm resolution: Elishah’s action was brave and courageous. He took “the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”

            His action means he was ready to terminate his present work to be with Elijah on his new prophetic mission. The banquet showed that the prophetic vocation has a public character; the members of his family knew Elishah’s decision to be a God’s prophet.

            We can learn a lot from Elishah’s courageous action. Once decided to follow God, we must firmly leave behind all things: parent, family, profession, property, etc. If we aren’t firm in our decision, we shall be tempted to gradually take all things back. A “catching fish with both hands” attitude is difficult for us to follow God all the way.

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 5 of the Gospel according to St. Matthews. Laws are only the minimum requirement to prevent people from sinning; but to become Jesus’ disciples 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 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 knew 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:

                     

            - We must carefully think before we promise anything to God and others. Once we promised, we must be faithful to the end.

            - We are Christ’s disciples. We must train ourselves so that we always speak, live and witness for the truth. If we always do that, swearing isn’t necessary.

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