daily biblical sermons


Truth is essential, but in the Church today there is a problem, for things are claimed as true that aren't
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, 10th Week of the Year, June 13, 2020
1 Kings 19:19-21, Psalm 15, Matthew 5:33-37


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“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.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 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 one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:33-37).

 

 

It seems that the Jews were in the practice of taking oaths in order to tell lies and deceive people into thinking that they were telling the truth, because they swore on oath that they were telling the truth. The way, it seems, that they did this was by swearing by something that they in their mind considered did not bind them to tell the truth, so the person they were speaking to was convinced that they were telling the truth, because the speaker swore an oath that it was true. They were able to do this because they thought that only swearing by certain things would bind them to tell the truth before God, so they avoided swearing by those things so that they could lie with impunity and without any sin and in this way deceive people by their oath into thinking that they were telling the truth.

 

 

The fundamental teaching of the Old Testament is that if you take an oath, you are bound by that oath and must tell the truth, for if you take an oath that you’re telling the truth and then tell a lie, it is a grave sin, because you have broken a solemn oath that you made before God to tell the truth. Leviticus says, “You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:12). The book of Numbers says, “When a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth” (Numbers 30:2).

 

 

Jesus condemns lying under oath under the pretext that the particular oath that they took does not bind them. What does Jesus say about this? He says, “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools; for which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If any one swears by the altar it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and he who swears by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it; and he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it” (Matthew 23:16-22).

 

 

So Jesus is saying, Do not swear an oath in order to tell a lie and deceive people into believing that it is true because you swore an oath that it is true. Better yet, today he says, Do not swear at all, but just tell the truth all the time so that you do not need to swear an oath for people to believe you, because they will know you as a person of truth who speaks only the truth. “I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King … Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:34-35, 37).

 

 

We get the impression today that the Jews were very untruthful people and Jesus was criticizing and condemning their lying and especially lying with a deceptive oath that they believed did not bind them to tell the truth. So they swore an oath not to tell the truth but the tell lies and to deceive people so that they would think that they are telling the truth, and then they could get out of what they promised by saying that their oath didn’t bind them for some specious reason.

 

 

What are we to learn from this for our Christian life today? We are to learn the importance of telling the truth, especially in matters concerning our Christian faith and the moral life that God wants us to live. This is extremely important today, because there is a major crisis going on right now in the Catholic Church, which started about four years ago, in which a new type of false morality is being proclaimed by some of our highest Church leaders as authentic Christianity.

 

 

They are falsely telling us that God himself is today contradicting the basic moral principles that he revealed in the Scriptures. They are telling us that God has no fixed moral principles that we must always follow in every circumstance, but rather that morality is on a sliding scale and depends on a person’s life situation. So a person who is in difficult life circumstances may not be required by God to keep his biblically revealed moral law, especially in matters of sexual morality. For certain people in difficult life circumstances, they falsely say, God is revealing a new, lower, and easier moral law, custom-made just for them, because God is so merciful.

 

 

Then these leaders falsely say that if these people in difficult circumstances are accompanied in a process of discernment to try to discover this easier and lower moral law that God is revealing in their conscience, because he sees that it would be too hard for them to keep his biblically revealed moral law, then they should follow this new, easier, lower moral law that is being revealed to them.

 

 

So, for example, while in the Scriptures God tells us not to commit adultery, for some people that does not apply, we are now being falsely told by some of our highest Church leaders over these past four years. They are telling us that in some cases a person who divorces from a valid marriage and civilly remarries may have sexual relations with his new partner, who is not his valid spouse, and will not be guilty of any sin, because God is merciful and doesn’t require him to keep his biblically revealed moral law, due to his difficult life circumstances.

 

 

They falsely say that when this man has sexual relations on a regular basis with a woman that is not his valid wife, he is not committing any sin, but is acting virtuously, because this is God’s new, lower, easier moral law, custom-made just for him that God has revealed to him in his conscience and that he has discovered by being accompanied in a process of discernment.

 

 

Therefore when this man has sexual relations with a woman that is not his wife, he grows in grace, virtue, and holiness by doing so. This is the new false teaching that is being inflicted on us Catholics today by some of our highest Church leaders these past four years.

 

 

This is fundamentally a problem of truth. We should always tell the truth and especially in matters concerning the faith and basic Christian morality. And our trusted Church leaders especially should always speak the truth, based on divine revelation in the Scriptures and on the constant Tradition of the Catholic Church in this area. The crisis today is that they are not doing this, but rather are preaching what the world wants to hear instead of the divinely revealed truth from the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church from its beginning. They are preaching worldly values. They are preaching and promoting grave sin. And they are doing it in a very deceptive way by telling them falsely that God himself contradicts his own biblically revealed moral law and now reveals an opposite moral law for certain people in difficult life situations, because he is merciful. This is false teaching, and it is very serious, because it is leading people into grave sin and to the loss of salvation.

 

 

So we find that some of our highest Church leaders today are doing just what Jesus is criticizing the Jews for doing, lying and deceiving people with their lies by wrapping them in the pretty wrapper of an oath, which they by mental reservation consider not to be binding on them for some specious reason. Jesus is saying, Stop doing this. Stop swearing by the temple and then telling a lie and excusing yourself by thinking that swearing by the temple doesn’t bind you. So they continue constantly telling lies and deceiving the people.

 

 

Is this not what some of our highest Church leaders have been doing to us these past four years? Truth is important. Just because a high leader says something does not necessarily make it true. It must be true in itself. And how can we know that certain moral principles are true and always apply to everyone? We can know because they are revealed by divine revelation in the Scriptures and in the whole Tradition of the Catholic Church, which confirms God’s writing of these moral principles on the hearts of all people, which is called natural law. But since some people disagree about natural law, because different people see things differently, God has given us written revelation in the Scriptures that is clear and unambiguous so that anyone that can read will know what the truth is about Christian morality.

 

 

The job of Church leaders is to preach the truth of Christian morality from divine revelation in the Scriptures, Tradition, and natural law, and not try to deceive people by preaching worldly values that the world believes in and wants to hear. Our Church leaders have no authority whatsoever to preach false worldly immorality. Even if one is a very high Church leader and is preaching worldly immorality that contradicts divinely revealed Christian morality, just because he is preaching this does not make it true if it is objectively false and contradicts divine revelation in the Scriptures and Tradition.

 

 

So you can see that we today have the same problem that the Jews of Jesus’ time had, and Jesus corrects our deceptive Church leaders today just as he corrected the Jews of his day by today’s reading.

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