Lectio Divina: Luke 11:47-54
1) Opening prayer
our help and guide,
make your love the foundation of our lives.
May our love for you express itself
in our eagerness to do good for others.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 11: 47-54
Jesus said: 'Alas for you because you build tombs for the prophets, the people your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness to what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building.
'And that is why the Wisdom of God said, "I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation will have to answer for every prophet's blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the Temple." Yes, I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.
'Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves and have prevented others from going in who wanted to.'
When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on Him and tried to force answers from Him on innumerable questions, lying in wait to catch Him out in something He might say.
• Once again for the hundredth time, today’s Gospel speaks about the conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities of that time.
• Luke 11: 47-48: Alas for you because you build tombs for the prophets. “Alas for you because you build tombs for the prophets, the people your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness to what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building”. Mathew says that these were the Scribes and the Pharisees (Mt 23: 19). Jesus’ reasoning is clear. If the ancestors killed the prophets and the sons built the tombs, it is because the sons approved the crime of their fathers. Besides this, everybody knows that the dead prophet does not disturb anybody. In this way the sons become witnesses and accomplices of the same crime (cf. Mt 23: 29-32).
• Luke 11: 49-51: To ask for an account of the blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world. “That is why the wisdom of God said: I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation will have to answer for every prophet’s blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Able to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the Temple. Yes, I tell you, this generation is lying in wait to catch Him out in something He might say”. Compared with the Gospel of Matthew, Luke usually offers a brief version of Matthew’s text. But here he increases the observations: “shed since the creation of the world, of the blood of Abel”. He did the same thing with the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew, who wrote for the converted Jews, begins with Abraham (Mt 1: 1.2.17), while Luke goes back to Adam (Lk 3: 38). Luke universalizes and includes the Pagans, then he writes his Gospel for the converted Pagans. The information about the murdering of Zechariah in the Temple is given in the Book of Chronicles: “The spirit of God then invested Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood up before the people and said, ‘God says this, ‘Why transgress Yahweh’s commands to your certain ruin? For if you abandon Yahweh, He will abandon you. Then they plotted against him and at the king’s order stoned him in the court of the Temple of Yahweh” (2Cr 24: 20-21). Jesus knew the story of his people to the minutest detail. He knew that He would be the next one on the list from Abel to Zechariah; and up until now the list continues to be open. Many people have died for the cause of justice and of truth.
• Luke 11: 52: Alas for you doctors of the Law. “Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge. You have not gone in yourselves and have prevented others from going in who wanted to”. How do they close the Kingdom? They believe that they have the monopoly on knowledge in regard to God and to God’s Law and they impose on others their own way, without leaving a margin for a different idea. They present God as a severe judge, and in the name of God they impose laws and norms which have nothing to do with the commandments of God. They falsify the image of the Kingdom and kill in others the desire to serve God and the Kingdom. A community which organizes itself around this false god “does not enter into the Kingdom”. Neither is it an expression of the Kingdom, and prevents its members from entering into the Kingdom. It is important to notice the difference between Matthew and Luke. Matthew speaks about the entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven and the phrase is written in the verbal form in the present: "Alas for you, lawyers of the Law and Pharisees, hypocrites, who close the Kingdom of Heaven before men, because in this way you do not enter and you prevent others from going in who wanted to enter (Mt 23: 13). The expression to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven could mean to enter in Heaven after death, but it is possible that it is a question of entering into the community, around Jesus and in the communities of the first Christians. Luke speaks about the key of knowledge and the phrase is written in the past tense. Luke simply shows the pretension of the Scribes to possess the key of knowledge in regard to God and to the law of God which prevents them from recognizing Jesus as Messiah and prevents the Jewish people from recognizing Jesus as Messiah: You take possession of the key of knowledge. You yourselves do not enter and you prevent others to enter.
• Luke 11: 53-54: The reaction against Jesus. The reaction of the religious authority against Jesus was immediate. “When He left there, the Scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on him, and tried to force answers from Him on innumerable questions, lying in wait to catch Him out in something He might say”. Since they considered themselves the only true interpreters of the Law of God, they tried to provoke Jesus on questions of interpretation of the Bible so as to be able to surprise Him in something He would say. Thus the opposition against Jesus and the desire to eliminate Him continues to grow. (Lk 6: 11; 11: 53-54; 19: 48; 20: 19-20; 22: 2).
4) Personal questions
• Many persons who wanted to enter were prevented from doing it and they no longer believed because of the anti-evangelical attitude of the priests. Do you have any experience regarding this?
• The Scribes began to criticize Jesus who thought and acted in a different way. It is not difficult to find reasons for criticizing anyone who thinks differently from me. Do you have any experience regarding this?
5) Concluding prayer
Yahweh has made known his saving power,
revealed his saving justice for the nations to see,
mindful of his faithful love
and his constancy to the House of Israel. (Ps 98:2-3)