Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute”, so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’
When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today’s gospel demonstrates the mounting opposition to Jesus who, in turn, responds with justified anger to the observing guests at the dinner. Jesus is chided for not observing the ritual of washing his hands before eating. He sees right through the accusation: the self-righteousness of the accusers who care more for the externals of the faith than for its call to conversion.
A lawyer chimes in to say he and his kind are also insulted by Jesus’ scolding of the Pharisees.
This dinner is the setting for a major shift in the relationship between Jesus and his adversaries. What had been previously toleration has escalated to blatant anger and distrust on both sides. Something ominous is now brewing and Luke confirms this by saying the Pharisees began “setting traps to catch him in his speech.” Jesus and His opponents are swirling toward the vortex of his imminent end.
A “fierce hostility” impels their every move against him from this point on. The sting of his words–“Woe to you lawyers, you have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not gained access, yet you have stopped those who wish to enter”–
hang in the misty room long after Jesus has left. How I wish our government leaders would reflectively read this passage today. Political self-promotion, personal profit, rigid ideologies all serve to take away “the key of knowledge,” an intelligent discernment of how best to serve the country.
The question I ask myself in the context of this gospel is: How much of a Pharisee, scribe or lawyer am I ? Or, am I a follower of Christ?
—Sr. Mary Ann Flannery, S.C. is Executive Director of Jesuit Retreat House, Cleveland OH.
O God, what will you do to conquer
the fearful hardness of our hearts?
Lord, you must give us new hearts,
tender hearts, sensitive hearts, to replace
hearts that are made of marble and bronze.
You must give us your own Heart, Jesus.
Come, lovable Heart of Jesus. Place
your Heart deep in the center of our hearts
and kindle in each heart a flame of love
as strong, as great as the sum of all the
reasons that I have for loving you, my God.
O holy Heart of Jesus, dwell hidden in my heart,
so that I may live only in you and only for you.
In the end, may I live with you eternally in heaven. Amen.
—St. Claude La Colombiere, S.J.
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