First Saturday in Lent: The rain it raineth on the just

First Saturday in Lent: The rain it raineth on the just

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.
(Lord Bowen)

On the one hand, this ditty might illustrate well today’s Gospel (Mt 5:43-8). We must ‘love our enemies’, yes, even when they steal our umbrella on a rainy day! In striving to be just, we don’t aim at becoming a victim; but when that happens, we have to treat our persecutors with justice and not revenge. As Socrates said, it is better to suffer evil than commit it – although we should note that he is speaking of the lesser of two evils, since it’s never a good thing to suffer evil. The moral of the story seems to be: better maintain your moral integrity and get wet in the rain.

But on the other hand, this is not at all what Jesus is saying. Aiming for moral integrity is fine, but it is not the point of this teaching. After all, in the dry Holy Land, the rain has a different meaning. Jesus speaks of the sunshine and the rain in parallelism, such that they are both intended to illustrate God’s universal goodness. God shows his goodness to us by sending the sun, and likewise by sending rain, impartially to all people. And that is how we should treat all our fellow human beings, constantly doing good to them, constantly wanting the best for them.

Of course, some people make it hard for us to love them. But even when they hurt us, we can still respond with goodwill, even if we can’t show it openly or touch their heart directly. At least, we can do this in our prayers, as Jesus says: ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’.

Fr Matthew Jarvis is currently studying Patristics at the Catholic University of Lyon.