14th June. Saturday in the 10th Week
First Reading: 1 Kings 19:19-22
(Elisha is called to a prophetic ministry by his patron, Elijah)
Elijah set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.
Gospel: Matthew 5:27-32
(High ideals about chastity and marriage, proposed in the sermon on the mount)
“You have heard how it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell. ‘It has also been said, Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you, everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of an illicit marriage, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Spiritually, most of us are still in our adolescent stage, old enough to be responsible but young enough to blunder and fall; far enough along to glimpse the new heavens and the new earth (Rev 21:1, Isa 65:17) and to share in the “new creation,” announced today by Paul, and yet at the same time still looking backward and in need of God’s forgiveness and patience. In so many of his talks, Pope Francis manages to beautifully enshrine both idealism and a gritty awareness of our flawed, human condition. Despite our awareness of personal imperfections, he says, we should reach out to the future in hope, full of the joy of the Gospel.
Some sense of belonging to “a new creation” shows up in both readings. Elijah threw his cloak over the young man Elisha, showing that the older generation was passing from the scene and a new generation was taking its place. A similarly radical challenge is heard from Jesus in today’s gospel: “Do not swear at all. Take no oaths, but say Yes when you mean Yes and No when you mean No.”
The kingdom of God is a wonderful idea and glorious dream, but are Jesus’ directives in the Sermon on the Mount literally possible in this world of ours? Some Christian groups try to follow them literally, keeping their speech simple and exact, neverexaggerating or “embroidering”. Most people, however, and certainly Irish people, feel the need to say more than a crisp “Yes” or an absolute “No.” We consider it fair that others need to check out our ID card and our driver’s license, and we are willing in court to swear on the Bible that our words are true. We and our world are not yet fully there, in kingdom mode!