Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection – October 14, 2021
Reflection for the 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 10-14-21, Year B
Readings: Rom 3:21-30, Psalm 130:1b-6b, Gospel Lk 11:47-54
Optional Memorial of St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr
Theme: Are We Worthy of the Dead?
Imagine having a conversation with someone about a controversial subject. You do your best to try and state your case so that they may come to understand your point of view. After providing a convincing argument through your life’s work, they turn to you and say, “When you are dead, then I will consider your thoughts and maybe change my ways. Until then, I will continue to ignore you and even be hostile to you!”
It seems that once a person has passed away, somehow, their thoughts, actions, and life transform from argumentative and obstinate to logical and acceptable, even prophetic. Now that this person is gone, we pay attention and ponder their message. Finally, we understand what it was they were saying or doing all along, and we begin to wish that we had more time with them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is saying something similar to the Pharisees and Scribes. They are memorializing and revering the very prophets that their ancestors persecuted and killed. The difference is that they do nothing to follow the messages and teachings of those prophets that they have come to respect because of their deaths.
Jesus is telling them that if they want to memorialize these prophets, they should follow what they taught and not their many laws that are burdensome and drive people away. The Pharisees and Scribes are no better, and in fact, even worse than their ancestors because they have a clear understanding of what the prophet’s lives were about, and yet they still do nothing to follow God’s word that came through them. They do not understand that faith is apart from the law!
In a way, today’s Gospel points to the necessity of Jesus’s own death. “Only when dead do prophets receive a respectful hearing; they are persecuted while they live.” 1 Do we now respect Jesus and follow Him after His death?
Today we can see the same responses of the Pharisees and Scribes in many of us with regard to Jesus. We have the knowledge and understanding of who Jesus was and the retrospect of His life and teaching after His death. We memorialize Him, yet we still do not follow His teachings. What happened so many years ago was amazing and good, yet somehow none of that applies to us today. We respect Him, but not enough to follow Him. Woe to us who do not follow His ways!
1 The Jerome Biblical Commentary – The Gospel According To Luke, Pg. 145, vs 47