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SERMON ON THE GOLDEN RULE
fr_basil
SERMON ON THE GOLDEN RULE
(Sunday’s Reading: Luke 6: 31-36)
Today’s Gospel begins with the verse that is the basis of the so-called “golden rule.”
“Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”
These are such important words! One of the clearest messages of the Gospel of Christ is that we no longer look at people as “us” and “them.” God loves and shows kindness to the “ungiving and the “evil” just as He does to the “pious” and the “good.” In another place, Jesus says: "I tell you, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5: 44-45). Remember what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery? “He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those who condemned you? Has no one condemned you?’ She replied, ‘No one, Lord.’
And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” (John 8: 10-11). Because we bear the name of Christ, “Christian,” we are supposed to behave like Christ, right? And how does Christ behave? He loves everyone, without exception. The holy apostle Peter says of Him: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2: 23).
“Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”
St Cyril of Alexandria said: “The holy apostles doubtless thought that this teaching was difficult to put into practice. So, Christ, Who knows everything, took the natural law of self-love to make it clearer for them...Behave, yourself toward others as you would hope that they would behave toward you.  If you would like them to be harsh, unfeeling, fierce, angry, revengeful and possessing a bad attitude, show yourself to be such: but if, on the contrary, you would like for them to be kind and forgiving, do not neglect to be like that yourself!”
Does this mean that if we are kind, loving and forgiving, that others who are wicked, evil, nasty, etc. will necessarily become kind, loving, and forgiving? Not at all. But...they might! What is it that the bishop or priest prays to God at every Liturgy of St. Basil the Great? “Make the evil to become good by Thy goodness!” This reminds me of of something from the Desert Fathers:
Abba Gelasius was a monk who lived around 400 AD. He had a parchment bible worth 18 pieces of silver, which is about $10,000 today. He normally left it in the monastary’s sanctuary so that anyone who wished could read it. One day, a strange man came to see Abba Gelasius. When the stranger saw the bible, he realized how valuable it was and that no one was guarding it, so he stole it. But Abba Gelasius was silently praying in the back of the room. He saw the stranger stealing the bible. Even so, the Abba chose not to stop him. He just watched. The stranger went to the city to sell the bible. He found a priest and offered to exchange it for 13 pieces of silver. The priest said, “Lend it to me for a little bit, so that I may have it appraised so that I can give you a fair price.” The thief agreed. So the priest took the bible. He travelled to Abba Gelasius and asked him to examine it. Abba Gelasius clearly recognized this was his stolen bible, but all he said was, “Buy it, for it is beautiful and worth the
price you tell me.” When the priest next met with the thief, he said, “I have shown it to Abba Gelasius, and he agreed that this is a fair price.” Shocked, the thief asked, “Didn’t the Abba say anything else?” “No,” said the priest. The thief was now filled with guilt. He told the priest, “I don’t want to sell it anymore,” and ran away. He ran straight to Abba Gelasius. He asked forgiveness and offered to give the old man his book back. But Abba Gelasius said, “No, you obviously want the book, so you keep it.” Stricken to the heart, the thief said, ‘Unless you take it back, I won’t have peace of mind.’ Then the saint said, ‘If you can’t have peace of mind unless I take it back, then I will do so.’ The thief, now become brother, remained with the saint until his death, and made progress by learning from his patience.”  You see, God’s love, as expressed through Abba Gelasius, caused the “evil to become good by his goodness.” Glory to God!
I’ll end with a word from St. Augustine of Hippo who said: “What is perfection in love? Love your enemies in such a way that you would desire to make them your brothers … For that’s how He loved, Who, hanging on the Cross, said ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'” (Luke 23:34, St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermons on I John, I.9). Amen.