“Let your “yes” mean “yes” and your “no” mean “no.” Fortunately, generally speaking, we do not have to make sworn oaths – unless we are sworn in as a juror. So we are meant to heed and obey Jesus, who said: “Just let your Yes mean Yes.” In other words, be a person of your word. Jesus is cautioning us against the casual habit, that many people have in their daily conversation, of repeatedly swearing to this or to that, without ever intending to do what they say. By going “in excess” of a simple Yes or No to state their intentions, are such people revealing that they are really untrustworthy? How often have you heard someone preface a comment with, “I tell you honestly?” Or “honest to God” or “I swear to God it’s true.” Could leave one wondering, “Can I believe anything else you say?”
Jesus always practiced what he preached by letting his Yes mean Yes. He allowed nothing to sidetrack him from the commission he received from his Father. The night before He died, He opened his heart to His father praying: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” But his “yes” won out. He continued his conversation with His father: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus gives us the finest example of one who proved true to what he promised.
In his Rule, in the Tools of Good Works, Saint Benedict reminds us: “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else … bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.” Today he might say – Be a person of integrity – live an undivided life – be predictable, consistent, dependable in honesty, loyalty, discipline, exercise self-control, be accountable and be trust-worthy.
With Ash Wednesday soon upon us and Founders’ Day following fast behind its heels, and then Recollection Sunday, it’s a good time to ponder all that our YES enfolds.
To quote from WISDOM DISTILLED FROM THE DAILY: “St. Benedict invites his disciples to embrace the mystery of community – to live the vision of oneness and equality in Christ.” By our vows we make, not an oath, but a solemn promise of obedience to listen intently to the voice of God manifested in our peers, our superior and the Spirit deep within. But, we can’t listen to what we don’t hear. If we don’t spend time in Lectio and in the company of community members, we only hear part of what we promised to listen to.
We promise Stability – a vow that binds us body and spirit to this community for the rest of our lives. It’s not an either / or deal. We promise not to simply rub elbows and sit shoulder to shoulder, but to also feel the pulse of the community and get into that rhythm.
We can find many examples in the lives of the saint-martyrs of persons who gave their lives rather than go back on a promise. But I offer you a classic example from children’s fable of the maxim: “let your no mean no” (I’m not sure about the yes part). This character dug in his heels – when he said NO he meant NO. You’ll recognize it right away – remember the fable of the Three Little Pigs? What was the answer the little pig gave to the big bad wolf who invited himself into the house – 3 times. And, when refused entrance, he threatened to blow down the house? “Little pig, little pig, let me come in.” “No, no, no by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin!” And he stuck to his word. “That’s not going to happen on my watch. Noooo way!”