I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher,"; he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal lie?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Paradox and utter novelty pervade the letter to the Galatians, where Paul insists on the authentic truth of his gospel, namely that in the community based on Christ there is no distinction based on Jew or Greek, slave or free person, male or female, for all are united in Jesus (Gal 3:28). This statement, which we will read again on Sat. of this week, is the keystone to Paul's entire ministry. This insight came to him directly from God,not from Peter or any of the other apostles. Jesus had sent the twelve apostles to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5), but Paul turns to foreigners, not only for hearts to convert, but also for new styles of worship. Israel could not learn exclusively from her own traditions what God intended as the full and final meaning of her covenant.
Another novelty comes from today's gospel. A lawyer-theologian posed a problem to Jesus about everlasting life, one of the deepest and most serious of all theological questions, and then tried to justify himself because he already knew the answer. He asked, "Who is my neighbour?" Jesus turned to the Samaritans for an answer, to a people who were despised and rejected by Israel as heretics and spoilers of the Torah.
How do we regard our "Samaritan" neighbour, those we hate or look down on, who are ignorant and willfully wrong, who have harmed us and taken advantage of us. Listen, Jesus says, listen to them as they teach you how to pray and to follow God's holy will. Listen as they silently turn aside and care for their wounded enemy along the road. Listen, because we who are correct can be so biased and self-righteous, so proud and pious that we miss the signals of wonder and goodness flashed through the darkness to keep us on the course of God's blessed will.
That lawyer asked Jesus two very important questions. He first asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" He then went on to ask, "Who is my neighbour?" It was in response to that second question that Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan. Yet, that parable doesn't really answer the question, "Who is my neighbour?" It answers another question, the question Jesus asks at the end of the parable, "Which of these three proved himself a neighbour?" In other words, the parable addresses the question, "What does it mean to be a neighbour?" Jesus is suggesting that it is more important to be a neighbour to others than to be trying to work out "who is my neighbour?" The answer to the lawyer's first question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" is "Be a neighbour." The parable is saying to us that if you want to know what it means to be a neighbour, look at the Samaritan. What the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan all had in common is that they all noticed; they all saw the broken man by the roadside. What distinguished the Samaritan is that he responded to what he noticed. His seeing gave way to compassionate serving. It is the kind of seeing that characterized Jesus' whole ministry. Jesus' answer to the lawyer's first question is "Be a neighbour in the way that I am."