Taking Oaths

Matthew 5: 33-37
1 Kgs 19: 19-21/ Ps 16

But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.
(Matthew 5:35)

Lord, restrain our tongues
When we are angry and prone to swear.
May they only praise, commend others,
Or give hope to those in despair.

(Jesus said), “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 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 even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Reflection

During the olden times, people took oaths to emphasize the veracity of their testimonies, or to bind themselves to an agreement or undertaking. Usually, an oath was spoken to seal a covenant that one entered into with a higher authority or power. Clear examples of this were the pledges made by vassals to their kings or emperors. Our Lord was aware that throughout the history of Israel, from the time of Moses down to His own generation, God’s Chosen people had always been remiss in their covenants with the Father. The Israelites had constantly broken their pledges of loyalty, turning to other gods, and indulging in debauchery and pagan rituals. Taking oaths had become meaningless, and taken lightly, it had lost its integrity in the face of so many broken promises. Worse, oath-taking had deteriorated into swearing. This was why our Lord forbade His disciples from taking oaths or swearing. He told them that one did not need to take an oath upon himself if he was really telling the truth. A simple “yes” or “no” would suffice for an honest man. It is usually the lying tongue that covers its deceit with an oath.

We often hear some people swearing recklessly by their mother’s grave, or by their children or spouse, without any regard whatsoever that their swearing makes them vulnerable to the devil’s tricks. Some years ago, a female senator and former judge who prided herself in being a person of integrity and erudition was caught flat-footed when she admitted that she had lied. Bereft of any humility, she thought that her “intelligence and wit” could get her off the hook for whatever words came out of her uncontrollable mouth. It cost her heavily – she lost in the elections.

Then there are those who swear with expletives in every other sentence that they utter. These are the people the Lord referred to when He said in Matthew 15:11: “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of his mouth.” In the Book of Proverbs, it says in chapter 10, verses 19 – 20: “He who restrains his lips does well. Like choice silver is the just man’s tongue.”

Lord, we ask You to help us restrain our tongue when we are angry and prone to curse. Let our lips open only to give You praise, to commend others, to ask for Your help, or to spread Your Holy Word, the Gospel. Help us to fulfill all our vows. Amen.

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