Give It to Them Straight

Jesus is particularly clear in today’s Gospel from Matthew, a selection from his Sermon on the Mount: Speak the truth.

Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” There are any number of euphemisms for that directive: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Give it to them straight. Tell it like it is. Don’t lie. 

It comes down to being a person of integrity, a true follower of Christ. If you always tell the truth, you can never be questioned. Now, Jesus’ directive isn’t “Always give an answer whether they like it or not.” Think of Pilate’s question of Jesus on Good Friday: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Our Lord replied not with a “yes” where he meant “yes,” but with a question of his own: “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?”

The point of saying what you mean and meaning what you say is, as Jesus tells Pilate a little later, to “testify to the truth.” Swearing by heaven, earth, Jerusalem or our very head is worthless on our part: God is in charge, and we have no right to make Him our witness. On the contrary, it is our job to be witnesses for Him. 

This is a good point to bring in our saint of the day, Barnabas. Originally named Joseph, he made quite an impression by selling property and putting the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles for the needs of the new Christian community. The gift earned him his new name, “Barnabas, or “son of encouragement.”

Even more important to the new Church was Barnabas letting his “yes” mean yes” and his “no” mean “no.” He risked his own integrity by bringing Saul — Paul, the future Apostle to the Gentiles — to them and vouching for this former persecutor of Christians as being trustworthy and converted to the Gospel message. Barnabas then mentored Paul and together they spread the Gospel to Antioch and beyond. Barnabas proved a follower of the truth, a witness for God’s own Son, and for God’s plan for the world. 

Let us pray that we, too, can be better followers of the truth, better witnesses for God and his plan for salvation, better instruments for building the kingdom of heaven here among us. May we ourselves be sons and daughters of encouragement, aiding our fellow Christians in their faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Mike Karpus is a regular guy. He grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, graduated from Michigan State University and works as an editor. He is married to a Catholic school principal, raised two daughters who became Catholic school teachers at points in their careers, and now relishes his two grandchildren, including the 3-year-old who teaches him what the colors of Father’s chasubles mean. He has served on a Catholic School board, a pastoral council and a parish stewardship committee. He currently is a lector at Mass, a Knight of Columbus, Adult Faith Formation Committee member and a board member of the local Habitat for Humanity organization. But mostly he’s a regular guy.

Feature Image Credit: Michael Carruth,