Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Art: The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane.
Reading 1 GAL 1:6-12
I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking
the one who called you by the grace of Christ
for a different gospel (not that there is another).
But there are some who are disturbing you
and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ.
But even if we or an angel from heaven
should preach to you a gospel
other than the one that we preached to you,
let that one be accursed!
As we have said before, and now I say again,
if anyone preaches to you a gospel
other than the one that you received,
let that one be accursed!Am I now currying favor with human beings or God?
Or am I seeking to please people?
If I were still trying to please people,
I would not be a slave of Christ.Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin.
For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it,
but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Responsorial Psalm PS 111:1B-2, 7-8, 9 AND 10C
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
exquisite in all their delights.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
sure are all his precepts,
Reliable forever and ever,
wrought in truth and equity.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
He has sent deliverance to his people;
he has ratified his covenant forever;
holy and awesome is his name.
His praise endures forever.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
Alleluia JN 13:34
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 10:25-37
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GAL 1:6-12; LUKE 10:25-37 ]“There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?‘” Right from the outset, we know that this ecclesiastical lawyer was not interested in finding eternal life. All he wanted was to hold a theological debate with the Lord, to show off his knowledge and unnerve Jesus. This is the case for the modern man today. He is not interested in finding the truth and live it, but to disprove others who hold differing views. He seeks not to find more about Jesus but to engage us in an intellectual debate on our doctrines.
Indeed, for such people who are just using their reason alone, the debate on God will end in a deadlock. Precisely, faith is needed to believe in God. At most, reason can show the credibility of our beliefs but cannot prove what we believe. If God can be proven, there is no need to have faith. Then there will only be one group of people in the world, believers or atheists. Not only that, there will only be one religion as well. This is not the case because belief in God requires faith. This faith is not simply a theological or intellectual faith but a personal faith as it presupposes a personal encounter and a personal relationship.
Instead of falling into the trap of the scribe, the Lord sought to lead him to faith on his own terms. He knew how the scribe would respond to His question, “What is written in the Law?” True enough, he, like every Jew, was able to recite without hesitation the two-fold commandments, the shema, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’” And Jesus responded, “You have answered right, do this and life is yours.” So the answer to eternal life is so simple, at least on the doctrinal level.
Yet, living out this commandment is a different thing all together. Many of us can engage in intellectual discussions and debate and yet remain unconverted. Theologians and priests have all been trained in theology, but does it necessarily mean that they love God and are devoted to Him and His people? If that were so, how come we have many priests and religious; and so-called good and active Catholics not living out the gospel life even though they know so much about the teaching of the bible and the Church? So knowledge alone cannot transform a person. We can even preach eloquently, telling people how to live their lives but we do not live out what we preach. This was the same dilemma of the scribe when we read that he “was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’” He was trying to rationalize to himself that he had fulfilled the laws but he knew deep inside that he had not. Otherwise, he would not have asked the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He might think that he had observed the laws and yet he knew that observance of the laws was not an indication that he loved God or his neighbour, but simply an obligation and a duty.
St Paul too was dealing with this same issue of salvation through the laws in today’s first reading. He wrote, “I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News.” The Jewish Christians came to Galatia and instructed the Gentile Christians that they needed to observe the Jewish laws, including circumcision and the dietary laws in order to be saved. But such thinking would contradict the belief that salvation is a free gift from God through Christ in faith. Salvation cannot be earned or merited but only received as a gratuitous gift from God. The laws cannot save us. If it could, then Christ is not necessary. Salvation comes from the forgiveness of sins brought about by faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.
It is significant to see how St Paul and our Lord rebutted those who wished to travel by the way of rationalization to find salvation. St Paul made it clear that his conversion from thinking that salvation was from the law to faith in Christ was brought about because of his personal encounter with the Lord. It was not through reason or the laws that he came to know God but through the mercy and grace shown to him by Christ. He wrote, “The fact is, brothers, and I want you to realise this, the Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” He also wrote to the Corinthians, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Cor 1:17)
Similarly, Jesus did not approach the question of God from a rational discourse but a personal involvement. The truth is that the question of God is very much related to the question of love of neighbor. The real measure of whether we have found God is not whether we understand Him or are able to give a theological systematic treatment of the question of God. Even if we could give an impressive theological argument on our doctrines, it does not mean that we know God. The sure sign that we know God is when we love our neighbours. This explains why the love of God is bundled together with the love of neighbor and self. So the fruit of faith is always charity. St James puts is succinctly, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (Jms 3:17f)
This is why St Paul argued with the Jews that salvation by faith in Christ through grace does not mean that we are cheapening our love for God and for our neighbours. He said, “So now whom am I trying to please – man, or God? Would you say it is men’s approval I am looking for? If I still wanted that, I should not be what I am – a servant of Christ.” In fact, we are now required to do more. Before grace, we simply had to observe the laws even without love of God and neighbour in our hearts. It could simply be a legalistic and burdensome slavery attitude to the laws. Such kind of disposition cannot bring us real freedom and happiness. Jesus made it clear when He said, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.” (Mt 5:17) As Christians, we are now called not just to observe the commandments to love God and neighbour but to love with all our heart, soul and strength as the law requires, both for God and for our fellowmen. Love has no limits and cannot be calculated or measured. It comes from the heart of compassion.
In the same vein, Jesus expounded this truth not using a theological discourse but simply to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. Whereas the others, namely, the priest and the Levite, although professing their utmost love for God by observing all the commandments of Moses, ended up neither loving God nor loving their fellowmen, especially those in need. For the sake of being able to offer the sacrifice at the Temple, they chose to ignore a dying man on the roadside instead of lending a helping hand. The Samaritan, rejected by the Jews and accused of being a heretic, turned out to be the man with a good heart. He never asked why the wounded man was so careless to travel alone in such a notorious route. He did not preach anything but simply attended to his wounds and pains, and then brought him to an inn where he was looked after, paid in full by the Samaritan. Such was the compassion and generosity of the Samaritan. His love for the needy went beyond race, language and religion. Everyone was his neighbour. In truth, God is encountered personally, whether in prayer, in the scriptures or through our fellowmen. God is found in our neighbours. And so if we encounter God in prayer, we will see Him in our neighbours. If we serve our neighbours, especially the poor and the suffering, we will see the face of God. St John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 Jn 4;11f)
At the end of the day, we have to answer the question that Jesus posed to the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?” But take note of his response, “The one who took pity on him.” After telling him such a moving story, the lawyer remained in his intellectual preoccupation because of his egotism and pride of intellect. He did not say, “the Samaritan” but “the one who took pity on him.” It was too difficult even for the scribe to name the man because he still could not accept that a Samaritan, despised by the Jews, could be so caring and compassionate. What about us? Do we want to continue in our intellectual discourse about God or should we start engaging God in prayer, in the scriptures and through our service to the poor and the needy? This is the advice of Jesus if we want to find life. “Go, and do the same yourself.”
Tags: a Samaritan traveler, Am I now currying favor with human beings or God?, am I seeking to please people?, “Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, compassion, gal 1:6-12, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received [from me] let that one be accursed, Jn 13:34, Lk 10:25-37, October 3 2016, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 111, service to others, The Good Samaritan, The Lord will remember his covenant for ever, The Word, There are some wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ, we are called to love our neighbor, we are called to serve our neighbor, with all your being, with all your heart, with all your strength