The Blood of Martyrs

Luke 11: 47-54
Eph 1: 1-10/ Ps 98:1-6

God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’
(Luke 11:49)

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, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your fore-fathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all. Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say. (Luke 11:47-54)

Reflection

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 primary 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 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.

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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