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Jesus said, ‘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 towards him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
The life of Christian discipleship is not always an easy path to follow. Since the dawn of time human beings have sought to establish relationships of power. Those relationships of power distance us from God, and yet humanity persists in pursuing that path.
As time has unfolded the human need to find a meaning for its own existence has caused us to delve deeper and deeper into our past. As we have uncovered details of the lives lived by our ancestors, we have come to celebrate their actions, whether they were worthy of celebration or not.
There is no doubt that those things that have shaped modern humanity are both interesting and informative, but they should not be seen as the targets we should be setting for ourselves. We live in a different time. A blind re-enactment of the past can only end in disaster because the life we live is so different from that of earlier generations. We have a greater awareness of our global identity and the many responsibilities that accompany that knowledge.
In today’s reading Jesus is warning us about the need to live in the moment. He is challenging those who are so firmly rooted in the past that they honour those who killed the prophets sent by God in earlier times. He is also warning us not to be diverted away from God by those whose priorities and ‘power’ create barriers between us and our loving Father in heaven.
There are certainly lessons to be learnt from the past. We do need to look back and seek to understand, because that will help us not to make the same mistakes as our forebears. But, when we wrap up the actions of our ancestors in the word ‘tradition’ and seek to blindly repeat their mistakes, we will soon find ourselves following a path that will lead us away from God and into the waiting arms of the devil.
Let us pray for the wisdom that will keep us rooted in the lives we are called to live in Christ’s name. Let us pray for the strength to see the past as a foundation upon which we can build a better present. Let us pray that, by living as Christ calls us to live, we might lay the foundations for a world which will indeed see God’s kingdom on earth become one with his kingdom in heaven.