Daily Reflection
October 9th, 2000
John Fitzgibbons, S.J.
English Department
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Galatians 1:6-12
Psalms 111:1-2, 7-10
Luke 10:25-37

The small, anxious, and nagging voice in our hearts asks, “What does it take to be a neighbor?”  Like the lawyer in Luke’s gospel today, we sense correctly that the stakes are very high.  Indeed, they are nothing short of eternal life.  There are times when being the kind of neighbor, the kind of person God calls us to be seems so natural, a “no-brainer” as my students would say.  Like an Olympic-caliber athlete, the heart moves, the mind seizes on the right action, and the body carries through.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”

Oh, and by the way, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Here in this last part of Jesus’ teaching is the hard part.  Loving, especially loving God, can so easily become abstract, private, and part of our list of things to do.  Loving by being a neighbor ­ especially to those who are very needy, very ugly, or very wounded loses all abstraction.  Surely our neighbor is not the irritating person in front of me, not the ungrateful child, not the colleague so given to what I can only call arrogance.

Paul seems so sure of himself in the Letter to the Galatians ­ and there is a part of me that envies that surety!  The crisis confronting the Galatians is more about insight into God’s idea of being a neighbor than of loyalty to Paul’s preaching against fastidious observance of the Law.

In his warning against the “fundamentalism” of following the Mosaic Law for the new gentile Christians, he stresses that the Law is holy and of God, yet fosters an attitude of self-righteousness.  Paul doesn’t hate order and moral living; he hates the substitution of an “easy” or self-righteous attitude before God, an attitude hurtful and un-neighborly to other believers.  In other words, Paul argues against the same kind of self-justification the lawyer defends in Luke’s gospel passage today.

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