Daily Reflection
August 25th, 2003
Tom Bannantine, S.J.
Nursing School Chaplain
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First Thessalonians 1:2-5, 8-10
Psalm 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 9
Matthew 23:13-22

Many of us are accustomed to view on TV the inauguration of the president of the United States.  The president-elect places his hand on a bible, usually one from his own family, and repeats the oath of office after the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  In the oath the president swears that he will faithfully uphold the constitution and laws of the United States.  The swearing in of the president tells the country that the president is very serious about his duties, and that he is determined to carry them out to the very best of his ability.  The use of the bible in the taking of the oath calls upon God to witness the oath and confirm the pledge made.  The final words of the oath, "so help me God," formally call upon the help of almighty God for the new president.  In a similar manner, witnesses in legal trials take an oath and call God to witness that they intend to speak the truth. 

In today's gospel reading, Jesus has some very harsh criticism for the scribes and Pharisees because they use clever arguments to negate the obligation of an oath.  He exhorts his hearers on this occasion to be willling to swear to what they know to be the truth when it is in question.  Truth is a great good and Jesus  wants his hearers to uphold it and to be ready to swear to it when necessary.  He tells them that God will always uphold the truth.

I think that Jesus has this same message for us today.  He wants us to seek the truth, to uphold it, and to be willing to swear to it when necessary.  Sometimes we regard swearing as wrong, even sinful.  Swearing can be wrong, even sinful, if we trivialize what we swear to, or if we swear to something that we know is not true.  God does not aprove of such swearing.  He is offended if we take an oath without being serious about the matter, or if we swear to something that is not true.  God rather calls upon us to be truthful at all times.  He bids us to take oaths very seriously and to regard them as a solemn duty when necessary to uphold the truth.  When we take an oath under those circumstances, we fulfill a very solemn responsibility, and God gives willing witness to the truth that we testify to.

For me this reading is not easy to reflect upon.   It is not easy to view the obstinacy and deviousness of the scribes and Pharisees.   But it helps me to reflect upon these words of Jesus as they pertain to the pursuit of truth.

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