By Shane Mulvihill
The golden rule is a concept that is familiar to most people. In fact, the majority of faith traditions in the world have some form of this rule incorporated into their teachings. Perhaps this is because the rule just makes sense as a way to keep peace, but perhaps this is far more intentional. For me, the golden rule seems to be the way in which God has revealed to all of His people a simple and straightforward way to live according to his message.
In today’s Gospel reading we hear Matthew state the golden rule as, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” It seems to be placed at the end of the reading almost as an addendum. What does the beginning part of the reading have to do with that all-important rule? For me, the answer is found by stating the rule slightly differently.
“Love others as you love yourself.”
This is not fundamentally different from what Matthew says, but it more succinctly states the universal first requirement of the golden rule, which is self-love. Before I can care for and love the others in my life and in my world I must love myself.
Self-love can be difficult.
I often find that I can be my biggest critic. It is easy to get down on myself when I make mistakes. I believe most people feel this way at times, I know I feel it when I continue to make the same mistakes over and over. It’s much easier to remember mistakes, flaws and failures, but God calls to celebrate successes, victories and growth. Jesus wants me to love the person that God created me to be.
He wants me to be filled with happiness and passion.
Knowing that all of this is essential to fulfill the golden rule and serve others, Jesus shows me a way for self-love.
In the first part of the gospel reading, Matthew explains ways to practice self-love. Jesus assures me that “everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” I know that if I seek God’s love I will be fulfilled. God’s unending love is the love from which all other love flows.
It is how I can love myself more perfectly.
If God loves me with all my imperfections, I know I can love myself. I continue to seek God in all things and make myself a more perfect version of what I am called to be.
It is no accident that this Gospel is read during Lent. Lent is a time I am called to love myself more to prepare for the love that Jesus shares with me on Easter. The love that I receive on Easter is the love with which I go out into the world and live the golden rule. As I reflect on today’s call to holiness, I plan to continue to keep in mind the first challenge of the golden rule, to love myself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shane spends his days saving vision as a pediatric optometry resident at Ohio State. He loves helping kids succeed by making sure they can see and going into schools to teach about eyes. He spends his "free time" exploring the world with his wife Kara. Some day they will accomplish their goal to visit a zoo in every state in the USA.