In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that making a promise or giving testimony is a powerful thing. The promises we make give witness to who we are, and the witness we give is a testimony to how seriously we take our promises. We’ve all experienced how unedifying it is when someone swears something to be true, promises to deliver on something, and then is revealed to have lied or fails to deliver, and not just because of circumstances beyond their control. When something is as simple as “Yes”or “No,” as Our Lord teaches us today, there’s no room for spin, for sophistry, for fine print, or for establishing little grey areas in our conscience instead of admitting we can or can’t deliver on something or whether we know or don’t know something.
Our Lord gives a laundry list of things the people of his day were using as collateral to show how serious they were about the oaths they made. He also puts his finger on the problem: that collateral is not theirs, nor is it under their control. It’s not as common today, but when someone swears “on my life,” or any other number of things or people, we are put on a guard, exactly because they are swearing on something over which they have no control or ownership and usually as a way of convincing others of their sincerity.
The easiest way to be sincere, as Our Lord reminds us today, is simply to be sincere: it’s the simplicity of a yes or no attitude to life, one that leaves no room for deceiving ourselves or others. Let’s ask Our Lord today to achieve that level of simplicity with ourselves and with others.
Readings: 2 Corinthians 5:14–21; Psalm 103:1–4, 9–12; Matthew 5:33–37.