Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Practicing the Golden Rule is not a sacrifice; it is an investment

“One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end of the road without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And there numbers were so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings."--Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, #153

Gospel text (Mt 7,6.12-14):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.”

The Gospel reading for today is a mix of popular aphorisms and clichés. Most recognizable is the “Golden Rule,” an important lesson which many of us learned during our childhood. However, have you ever considered what it means to “treat your neighbor as yourself?” What are the concrete actions that one must take to fulfill this commandment? Perhaps this is what Jesus means when he speaks of the narrow gate that leads to life and fulfillment. It’s easy for us to simply “be nice” or “get along” with others, and even easier to keep the status quo and succumb to making degrading and disparaging remarks.

Doing unto our neighbor what we would have done to us implies transparency of actions towards the other, the acknowledgement of their similitude to God, of their dignity. Why do we want the Good for ourselves? Because we recognize it as a means of identity and union with the Creator. Since the Good is, for us, the only means to achieve life in its fullest, its absence is unconceivable in our relationship with our neighbors. There is no place for the good when falseness prevails and evil dominates.

Here is a question to consider. When was the last time we made a concerted effort to treat someone with love and respect, even when we don’t think they deserve it? As Jesus suggests, this lifestyle is not popular, nor does it come without challenge. However, our ultimate reward is everlasting life. Moreover, our temporal reward is the strengthening of our relationships and the fostering of community. This, ultimately, is the goal and meaning of life—that we live for and with others, and in doing so, journey with each other down the narrow road to eternity.

Lastly, the “narrow gate”… Pope Benedict asks us: «What does this "narrow door" mean? Why do many not succeed in entering through it? Is it a way reserved for only a chosen few? » No! The message of Christ is that «everyone may enter life, but the door is "narrow" for all. We are not privileged. The passage to eternal life is open to all, but it is "narrow" because it is demanding: it requires commitment, self-denial and the mortification of one's selfishness».

Let us pray to the Lord, who won universal salvation with His own life and resurrection, to gather us all in the eternal life Banquet.

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