The Golden Rule

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Genesis 13:2, 5-18; Matthew 7:6, 12-14

St. Cyril of Alexandria

When I was a child and there was only one piece of cake left between two or more of us, my parents and grandparents would often invoke the I-Cut-You-Choose Rule.  That is, they would have one of us cut the sole piece left into two (or more) pieces with the understanding that the other(s) would be able to choose first.  Although no compasses, micrometers or rulers were used, the results tended to be very equitable!  Our elders, perhaps not consciously, relied on Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of self-interest along with their understanding of children’s moral development.

In invoking the Golden Rule in today’s gospel passage, Jesus seems to encourage similar outcomes in behavior but with a different motivation—not so much self-interest as self-respect and, more broadly respect for others and for the God who made us all.  As the embodiment of God’s unfathomable love and for us, he also calls us to treat the gift of the gospel as a treasure not to be carelessly tossed about (“pearls before swine”) and to accept that the gift of grace we have received has consequences and calls us to a way of life that will sometimes limit our freedom and make us uncomfortable (“the narrow gate).  

Cynical wags have sometimes defined the Golden Rule as, “He who has the gold, rules.”  That is certainly the way of the world.  The way of Christ, however, calls us to serve rather than rule and to even move beyond tolerance and respect to love. –JC