Lent calendar prayer and reflection for 10 March - Lent Fast Day
So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.
Today’s reading from Matthew ends with the ‘Golden Rule’: “So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.”
Stripped of image and metaphor, Jesus is as direct as he can be in communicating what may be the essence of his teaching.
I find it so interesting that he states the rule in its positive form: as opposed to, “don’t do this”; it is, “do this”. If this is the meaning of the Law and what the Prophets said, it is social – society and how we treat each other is at its heart. It is without borders of culture, faith or nation – Jesus doesn’t name or divide. It is one that recognises innate dignity and ‘selfhood’ – ‘others’ are people just like us who should be treated fairly, they can also treat us as we would like to be treated.
It is also altruistic – we must help others or be good towards them without reward. It is empathic – we must think of others and share in their joys and struggles. It is easily achieved – there is no ceremony or rigorous observance involved. It’s egalitarian – you and I are able to observe this Law, we don’t need to be specially ordained or instructed. It is an active and giving Law – we consider what we might do as opposed to what we shouldn’t do.
Meeting Florence in Zambia
I think immediately of a woman I met in Zambia called Florence. She struggled to make a living, was helped by her neighbours and then received some training to farm fish. What Florence chose to do with this training struck me then and even more so now in the light of these words from Matthew’s Gospel.
She went back to her home and taught her neighbours what she had learned – she shared her gift.
Florence was very reserved about what she had done. She said, “When I came back [from the training], I wanted to help my neighbours, as they had helped me in the past. When I was doing my work, people came to help me. I thought if they were empowered, they would benefit.”
Even while we talked, I thought, “Would I have done what Florence did?”
That night as I wrote up some notes, I thought, “Even if I had done what Florence did, would I have done it expecting no reward – only wanting the best for my neighbours?”
A success story
As I’m writing now, I think more about the wider world. In today’s world of market economics, ‘healthy’ competition, ‘game theory’ and the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, Florence could have cornered the market. She could have built her ponds, sold her fish at a premium and made a fortune. You might call that a ‘success story’.
She didn’t do this for money, to be ‘good’, or for any kind of recognition, she did it because she thought her neighbours would benefit.
Florence is the living embodiment of the Law that Jesus describes.
Prayer for Lent Fast Day
God of Love, Maker of all, help me to see the dignity in all my sisters and brothers, made in your image and likeness. Amen.
Today is Lent Fast Day. Could you have a simple lunch or dinner, or go without, and give what you save to our Lent Appeal? Your small sacrifice and solidarity will help some of the world’s poorest people. Thank you!
This reflection was written by Mark Chamberlain who works in CAFOD’s Communications team, and who recently visited communities in Zambia.