In the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, He created them in the state of "original justice" -- which is to say that they were in the state of sanctifying grace, radically holy, and raised above the level of their natural existence. They had free will, but their will conformed to the will of God, and because they were in this state of justice or sanctifying grace, all of their good works were pleasing to God. They were God's created natural son and daughter (some translations of St. Luke's Gospel refer to Adam as the "son of God" in our Lord's genealogy).1
We, know of course, that they fell from their exalted position through original sin when they gave in to the temptation of the devil that suggested to them that they could "be like gods" -- a special sin of pride, not at all uncommon among modern men and women, who feel that they can, for all practical purposes, be their own "god." We know also that they were expelled from Paradise, and left to depend upon their own natural abilities. No longer were they specially protected by God from the difficulties of life proper to all flesh and blood creatures, even man. They were left to their own devices, even insofar as knowing God -- that is to say that the descendents of Adam knew God only insofar as they had family memories of Him, or could know Him through the use of their natural reason. They might reason to His existence from the harmony and complexity they saw in His creation; they might know His moral law only insofar as it was obvious that society could not work with people beating, stealing, and cheating on each other.
Yet, we know that God resolved to do something for Adam and his descendants almost immediately after Adam's fall. He resolved that, one day in the future, another of His Sons, the seed of a woman, would crush the head of the serpent. He resolved that this Son would undo at least some of the damage done by the other son; and men and woman would again be sons and daughters of God, at least by adoption.
But redemption was in the far future that awful day in Paradise. Mankind would sink to the level where God would almost destroy it; preserving only the children of the just man Noe. The story of Noe is significant, for in it we see God making Himself known directly to His people, instead of leaving them so completely to their own devices. God made a covenant with Noe, that He would not again destroy the earth by flood. And He gave Noe the very simple rudiments of the moral law, so that Noe and his descendants would no longer have to guess about pleasing God.
In the Old Testament we can read about how God developed and enlarged that covenant with His people over the centuries, ultimately inscribing His commandments on tablets of stone, and commanding Moses to write down His directives in great detail. The Law was one of the most prized possessions of the Jewish people -- if they followed it, they knew unerringly that they were doing God's will. In the Psalms, the boasted, "He has not done this for any other nation; His ordinances He has not made known to them."2
But even the detailed knowledge of the Law did not restore His people to the status held by Adam and Eve. One might stay out of trouble by following the minute prescriptions of God's Law -- as a people, the Jews might escape His anger and even receive some tangible reward, by demonstrating their legal fidelity to Him and to none other. Works of charity, like the one we heard about in today's Gospel, were more or less demanded of His people -- they were supposed to take care of each other; in a sense because they were taking care of what belonged to God.
But even though the Jews -- at least in comparison with other peoples -- were really quite fortunate to have this Covenant of the Law with God, it was an arrangement between a Master and His servants. They could keep His rules and avoid difficulties, but even their greatest works of piety and charity were not adequate to return them to the friendship with God enjoyed by Adam and Eve. In the Old Covenant, as Saint Paul describes it today, there was glory, but it was "glory in a ministration that condemned." With just a little touch of pessimism, it was possible to see the Law of Moses as nothing more than an incredibly complex set of rules that almost all normal people would wind up breaking.
Paul's letter was a description for the people at Corinth of the New Covenant. God has even further revealed Himself through the promised Son. The core of the moral law remains, of course, for it is necessary for the regulation of human affairs -- but gone are the minute ritual details regulating every aspect of life . We now have "assurance through Christ" -- a covenant not of the letter of the law, but rather a covenant in the spirit, the spirit of God's love. Through Christ we have the opportunity to once again become sons of God, just as Adam was before the fall; just as God intends us all to be.
The hero in today's Gospel was an outcast, a Samaritan, a foreigner among the Jewish people. Quite likely, our Lord chose him on purpose, to illustrate His point. The good that we do as Christians takes on a whole new dimension -- it is no longer bound by the legal relationship of a servant being required to look after the property of the master -- rather it is the means by which we delight our adoptive Father in Heaven, who looks with joy upon His children doing His will, and is so pleased that His sons and daughters love each other as He loves them; that they show concern for each other as He has concern for them.
As Christians, through God's Holy Sacraments were are raised to the state of Sanctifying Grace. We are capable of doing good and pleasing God our Father; loving our neighbor because we love God and He loves us. What better advice can we have than the words of our Lord to this lawyer who tried to test him: "Go, and do you also in like manner."
1. Luke iii.
2. Psalm cxlvii: 20.