Scolding the Scholars

Luke 11: 47-54
Rom 3: 21-30 / Psa 130

You have kept the key of knowledge; you yourselves have not entered, and you prevented others from entering!
(Luke 11:52)

The sins our ancestors committed
The prophets paid for at the stake.
Woe to sinners who take for granted
The blood that they shed for our sake.

Jesus said, “Woe to you! You build tombs for the prophets whom your ancestors killed. You yourselves admit then, that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you built their tombs. For this reason the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles; they will kill some of them and persecute others’. So the people of this time will be punished for the murder of all the prophets killed since the creation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the Holy Place. Yes, I tell you, the people of this generation will be punished for them all! How terrible for you teachers of the Law! You have kept the key of knowledge; you yourselves have not entered, and you prevented others from entering!” (Luke 11:47-54)


Our Lord was denouncing the scribes and pharisees of His generation not only for the prophets that their ancestors murdered, but for the early Christian martyrs, including Himself, that He was prophesying these Jewish religious leaders would eventually kill.

The pharisees and scribes claimed to be the traditional keepers of God’s laws, but in reality their main concern was to maintain the status quo, whereby the regulations and rules contained in the Talmud (that they themselves crafted) gave them power over the people. Jesus’ immediate concern was to free the people from the burden of these laws, thus earning the enmity of the religious elite of that generation. As Jesus foretold, they would have Him crucified, and His followers persecuted, jailed and murdered. But true to His words, for these crimes they would be punished, because in the year AD 70, the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Roman forces.

There is a lesson here for some of us who might consider ourselves “on the right path” just because we study the scriptures diligently, and go to mass daily. Like the Pharisees who were very zealous and lived life according to a moral code, we too can become proud and self-assured. For instance, do we shun people who are not like us, especially the beggars outside the church who seem to have made us the source of their “daily bread”? Or are we only concerned about our own ‘spiritual growth’, never bothering to share God’s message of salvation to others? Then we are no different from the scribes that our Lord had condemned, for keeping the key of knowledge, and yet not using it to enter into a deeper understanding of God’s law, and depriving others from entering also. As Christians we are responsible for others who are still in the dark, who have not yet experienced an encounter with the Lord because they are not familiar with His Word. Jesus may well be addressing His words to us: “You have kept the key of knowledge…” He has given us the gift of faith, and the gift of understanding His Word. Freely given, it must be freely shared, otherwise how can we feel worthy of His gift?

Thank you, Lord for teaching us in today’s Gospel that we have a great responsibility in reaching out to others in material and spiritual assistance, just as you have been as generous to us. Thank You for making us understand that our faith is not defined by rules and religious acts, but by Your grace alone. Amen.

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