“WOE TO YOU LAWYERS!” (Lk 11:47–54).
Woe to you Pharisees!
The Lord said: “Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, (51) from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!(52) Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.” When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Luke (with permission)
- 51 Zechariah was a prophet who died by being stoned in the Temple of Jerusalem around the year 800 B.C. because he accused the people of Israel of being unfaithful to God’s law (cf. 2 Chron 24:20-22).
- The murder of Abel (Gen 4:8) and that of Zechariah were, respectively, the first and last murders reported in these books which the Jews regarded as Sacred Scripture. Jesus refers to a Jewish tradition which, in his own time and even later, pointed out the stain of the blood of Zechariah.
- The altar referred to here was the altar of holocausts, located outside, in the courtyard of the priests, in front of the Temple proper.
- 52 Jesus severely reproaches these doctors of the Law who, given their study and meditation on Scripture, were the very ones who should have recognized Jesus as the Messiah, since his coming had been foretold in the sacred books.
- However, as we learn from the Gospel, the exact opposite happened. Not only did they not accept Jesus: they obstinately opposed him. As teachers of the Law they should have taught the people to follow Jesus; instead, they blocked their way.
TOPIC: Do you know of people who are fond of criticizing others behind their backs?
In today’s gospel (Luke 11:47-53), Jesus continues to upset the Pharisees and scribes with His pronouncements that contradict the way laws should be followed. In gospel readings of the previous days, we see how Jesus challenged the superficial religiosity of Jewish leadership. They have made the laws handed down by Moses more complicated and ritualistic that even they themselves often violate. They could not understand how His new wine could fit into their old wineskins. His message was that the laws are only good if they will foster His commandment of love. Notice the difference in the way criticism is given and handled. Is it wrong to criticize? How do we handle criticism?
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