This is also the time of year when holiday specials extol the virtues of being nice to each other and giving gifts. That's not quite 'the true meaning of Christmas,' but they're right: sort of.
Code of Hammurabi and Exodus 20:12; and wisdom from Pittacus of Mytilene, Confucious, and Mozi.
Jesus outlined the principle of reciprocity in Matthew and Luke. We've been calling it the Golden Rule at least since the 18th century:
"6 'Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets."control freak version of "law," loudly endorsed by the establishment of the day.
"Do to others as you would have them do to you."
Some Americans yearn for a return to those 'good old days.' I don't. I remember the 'Happy Days' era wouldn't want to go back, even if we could: which we can't, and that's another topic. Topics.
When someone asked Jesus for the greatest commandment of the law, my Lord said: love God, love your neighbor. He went on to say:
"24 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.' "On top of that, we're supposed to see everyone as our neighbor. (Matthew 5:43-44, 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:25-27, Luke 10:29-37; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1822, 1825)
Since the Golden Rule "is the law and the prophets," thinking that there's a connection between God's version of love and law probably isn't too much of a stretch.
Luke 10:30-37 makes it obvious that my love for neighbors can't be safely abstract. I'm expected to actually do something about it.
Does that mean I'm personally responsible for ending world hunger, finding a cure for cancer, and uniting the world in brotherly love? I certainly hope not. I'm just one man, living near the center of the North American continent, with limited resources.
I could throw up my hands and despair: but that's a bad idea, and against the rules. So is presumption, and that's yet another topic. (Catechism, 2091)
Doing nothing isn't an option, either. What I can do — I'll get back to that.
One of them, Martha, was "burdened with much serving." The other, Mary, did nothing but listen to Jesus.
There's more going on here than a frazzled hostess asking for help, as the footnotes point out:
"The story of Martha and Mary further illustrates the importance of hearing the words of the teacher and the concern with women in Luke....I've heard the story of Martha and Mary used an example of how we shouldn't get distracted by everyday concerns. I'll go along with that, but Jesus didn't tell Martha she was wrong. He said "...Mary has chosen the better part...." (Luke 10:42)
"... it is remarkable for first-century Palestinian Judaism that a woman would assume the posture of a disciple at the master's feet (see also ⇒ Luke 8:35; ⇒ Acts 22:3), and it reveals a characteristic attitude of Jesus toward women in this gospel (see ⇒ Luke 8:2-3)."
(Footnotes 13, 14, Luke 10, New American Bible.)
Maybe the idea is that we need a balance. James 2:14-19 makes it pretty clear that faith without works is "dead."
Doing Our Job: Two Millennia And CountingGetting back to what I can do about ending world hunger, curing cancer, and achieving a lasting peace — realistically, not much.
But I can make a small difference. My wife and I support carefully-chosen charities. She occasionally volunteers for parish functions, and I do what I can for the local Knights of Columbus. What I write may do some good, too.
We're working on a job that started about two thousand years ago:
"11 Then Jesus approached and said to them, 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.As I've said before, part of our job is making the world a better place. (Catechism 1928-1942)
"Go, therefore, 12 and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,
"teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 13 And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.' "
It's slow work, and sometimes frustrating. But my guess is that we have a lot of time to work with: and will need every millennia of it.
- "Golgotha, Rome, and Words that Mean Something"
(April 28, 2013)
- "'Arrogant Scoundrels,' 'People Who Care,' and Me"
(March 10, 2013)
- "Prayer, Technology, and Looking Ahead"
(February 24, 2013)
- "Street Performers and Making Progress"
(May 6, 2012)
- "Hope, Joy, and Working for a Better World"
(September 13, 2011)