This Sunday we hear again a part of Jesus’ table speech during the Last Supper according to Saint John’s Gospel. Jesus urges his disciples to live a life of love. Knowing that they are loved by God they might give the same love to one another and to everyone. The painting which illustrates Matthew’s so called ‘Golden Rule’ might be a suitable substitute.

Matthew 07:12

7:12     'So always treat others as you would like them to treat you;

that is the Law and the Prophets.


Jesus speaks these words at the end of his Sermon on the Mount. At the beginning he said, ‘I did not come to abolish Law and Prophets but to complete them’ (5:17). Law and Prophets: that means Jesus’ Bible, our Old Testament. The Sermon on the Mount could be understood as Jesus’ interpretation of Law and Prophets. Matthew 7:12 is the conclusion and the summary of his Bible.

At the beginning of this Sermon Jesus taught his disciples, ‘You must be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect' (5:48). The Golden Rule is the human consequence. It is striking that in this summarising commandment God is not mentioned anymore.

Information: The Golden Rule

This commandment is sometimes called the ‘Golden Rule’. Basically it is a summary of the preaching of the Old Testament Prophets. We find it in other words in the book of Tobit (4:15), ‘Do to no one what you would not want done to you...’ It also found its way into Jewish tradition, ‘Don’t do to others what you do not want to be done by them’ (Rabbi Hillel ‘Sabbat 31a’).

The third religion in the Abrahamic tradition, the Islam, says, ‘Nobody of you is a faithful as long as he doesn’t grant his brother what he wants for himself’ (Words of Muhammed: von an-Nawawi 13).

But long before this tradition we can find the Rule in the great religions and philosophies.

Hinduism, ‘You shouldn’t behave to another as you don’t like it for yourself; that is the essence of every morality’ (Mahabharata XIII 114.8).

Jainism: ‘A human being should treat all creatures just as he himself would like to be treated’ (Sutrakritanga I.11.33).

Confucius in the Chinese tradition, ‘Whatever you don’t wish for yourself, don’t do that to others’ (Dialogues 15,23).

Buddhism, ‘A situation which is not pleasant for me, might not be pleasant for him either. And a situation which is not pleasant for me, how could I wish that for others?’ (Samyutta Nikaya V, 353.35-354.2).

Picture Meditation

The artist brings ten people together in brotherly and sisterly love. The central place is reserved for Jesus, clothed in red, the colour of love.

I see men and women; strikingly, no children. All people embrace each other. The features of their faces express happiness, safety and joy. 

Was there a moment in my life that I had the luck to experience a situation like this one?

With whom?

Or that I desired to have such a blessing, but it did not happen?

Is there a person in the painting with whom I can identify myself?

Who are the other ones? In my imagination I give names to each of these people, names of real, concrete people who play(ed) a role in my life. Whom should I choose to grant a place in this circle of intimacy?

Is it possible that I would give a place here to people who have hurt me at a certain moment in my life? Perhaps I feel the pain, the scars of their behaviour, till this day? Is there a place for them as well in this circle of love and charity? In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told his disciples, ‘Love your enemies.’ Are there (former?) enemies in this circle of love?

And the other way around. Are there circles where people get along very well which each other, but there is no place for me?

Finally I have a talk with one or more of the people in the painting; I finish by talking with Jesus and perhaps - together with Jesus - to the Father...


- Meditation by Fr Dries van den Akker S.J

The God Who Speaks in our Archdiocese