Elijah set out and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was ploughing. 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.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the Lord, My Lord are you.
O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot. (R./)
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
even at night my heart exhorts me.
I set the Lord ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. (R./)
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples,
"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.
In so many of his talks, Pope Francis managed to beautifully enshrine both idealism and a gritty awareness of our flawed, human condition. Despite our personal imperfections, he says, we should reach out 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 is the Sermon on the Mount literally possible in this world? Some Christians try to follow his words 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!
Jesus opposes the kind of oath taking that seeks to control God for one's own purposes, swearing by heaven, God's throne, or by earth, God's footstool, or by Jerusalem, the city of God. The temptation to control God for one's own purpose has been deeply rooted in the human spirit. Ancient magic was an attempt to control the spirit world for one's own purpose, and, indeed, the same could be said of certain forms of contemporary magic. Instead, the Lord's Prayer urges us to begin by surrendering ourselves to God's purpose, 'your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done.'
God's purpose for each of us is life-giving. We trust in divine providence to help us live a life that is both responsible and free. This will mean freely giving ourselves over to God's will for us as individuals, and for his creation. In this we follow Jesus, who prayed, 'Father... not my will but yours be done', and the example of Mary, who said, 'Let it be to me according to your word.'