I remember speaking with some friends shortly after college. We were feeling like we had matured a great deal because we didn’t cuss as much as we once did. As a matter of fact, we were talking about how we would cuss just to add emphasis, to communicate that we really meant what we were saying. We were a work in progress.
That memory came to me as I read the final words of today’s Gospel, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.” I was kicking around what does it mean for “Anything more [to come] from the Evil One?” What does that mean for the oath taker and the oath hearer? And what does it mean for how we listen to the Lord?
“Anything more is from the Evil One,” because he is the Father of Lies. He is the one who in the beginning called into question the integrity of God. He sowed doubt and not the doubt that comes from ignorance or uncertainty, but the one that comes from distrust. As sin entered the world, creatures lost the implicit trust that they should have in the Creator. Once that first, most basic and natural relationship of trust was corrupted it led to falsehood and suspicion between us.
We’ve coped with this by salvaging moments and formulas that we call oaths where truth telling is universally expected. But these are the exceptions that prove the rule. We don’t expect the truth and we don’t tell the truth like we should. As Christians and Disciples we are quick to think that we can help solve this by telling the truth more and waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. The problem with this is that we generally still walk in suspicion that others are lying to us. We make every effort to speak truth, but we are not quick to heal our ears so that we listen with trust.
What does this mean for our relationship with the Lord? Likely many things but let’s focus on two. First, we are prone to listen to the Lord with the same ears of suspicion that we listen to our peers. This means that we are not attentive to whispers and brief answers, but are looking to be convinced. This is not how the early Church in Acts listened in today’s first reading. Luke described it this way, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.” They worshipped. They heard and trusted the Holy Spirit. They acted without pause. This doesn’t mean long-term discernment is succumbing to doubt, but if we need the Lord to pinky swear and cross his heart and hope to die before we believe him, that is not discernment that is distrust.
Finally, it is good for us to remember that more than God being trustworthy, He is Truth. When we lie we usurp His prerogative and lay claim to authority over His nature. Additionally, when we listen with ears and hearts waiting to catch a lie we are seeking the influence of the evil one. So let us seek God at all times by listening with ears and hearts that seek reasons to trust. Let us walk as Children of Truth rather than the Progeny of Deceit.