Week 28 in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Romans 3:21-30
All have sinned, but can be justified by faith in Jesus Christ
Now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one.
Responsorial: Psalm 129:1-6
R./: With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleading. (R./)
If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
for this we revere you. (R./)
My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak. (R./)
Gospel: Luke 11:47-54
In attacking Jesus, his enemies align with their ancestors who killed the prophets
Jesus said to scribes and Pharisees, “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 toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
The blood of martyrs
Paul bases his ministry on the belief that all human beings, of whatever race, are called to salvation through Jesus Christ. By contrast, today’s gospel alludes to the murder of many prophets in Old Testament times.
Old Testament terms often resonate in Paul’s writings. They include: the justice of God, the glory of God, redemption, blood, the law or Torah, choice by God, divine favour, mystery, fullness of time, the promise of a messianic saviour. For our meditation let’s reflect on the connection between blood and life. Through shedding his blood Christ achieves expiation for all who believe; his blood joined to that of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world. Clearly a positive life-giving meaning is assigned to the blood of Christ.
When Paul says that God made the blood of Christ an expiation for all sin, he is drawing from the imagery of Old Testament sacrifices that were meant to purge away sin. This notion of vicarious atonement is alien to many of us today, who seek a different explanation for the saving power of the cross. For Paul it was absolutely central that Christ’s death and resurrection were and are life-giving. They establish a bond of life with God, for all who believe in Jesus. His focus of attention is not the cross per se, but the new life which the self-giving of Christ pours into our midst. Because the outpoured life-blood of Christ is so pure and sinless, by it we are cleansed and given a share in divine life.
Jesus mentions the blood of martyrs in arguing with Pharisees and lawyers, and condemns them for putting monuments over the graves of the prophets. It is not that he objects to honouring the prophets. We ought to honour the dead, but not so much by shrines to their mortal remains, but by imitating their concern for others. Like the prophets, we are meant to stand up for the cause of justice, for other people’s dignity and rights.
Both teachers and learners
Jesus criticises the lawyers, experts in the Jewish Law, for “taking away the key of knowledge.” They have rejected the teaching of Jesus and now prevent others from coming to authentically know God. They have not been true to their calling as teachers of the ways of God. Jesus reveals God more fully than any other human being could. In rejecting his words, the lawyers were taking away the key of knowledge, failing to recognize how God was at work in Jesus.
God has given us the key to knowing him, by giving us Jesus. He is the key to this special knowledge and we will always be learners from him. The mistake is to think ourselves fully informed about God. We are more like infants, always having much to learn. That is why Jesus had prayed to the Lord of heaven and earth, “You have hidden these things from the learned and the clever and have revealed them to infants.” When we recognize this we will come to know God more fully.