A reading from the gospel according to Luke 11:47-54
The Lord said:
47 “Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed.
48 Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building.
49 Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’
50 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.”
53 When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things,
54 for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.
A prophet is someone called to speak in behalf of God through divine inspiration. He is an instrument by which the will of God is revealed to all who cares to listen. He is therefore the messenger of God. In the Old Testament and even in the New Testament, there were many prophets who were killed because they ruffled the feathers of people in authority. Some famous examples were Prophets Isaiah who suffered martyrdom under King Manasseh, Jeremiah who was killed by stoning, John the Baptist who was beheaded as ordered by Herod Antipas and Zechariah as mentioned by Jesus in the gospel reading above. After the death of Jesus, most of His apostles also suffered violent death. Many more people afterwards were persecuted and killed for preaching the Word of God. Just go over the lives of the saints to know their names.
Jesus rebuked harshly the religious leaders and scholars of the law for their hypocrisy. While they build memorials for the prophets of old, they themselves continued the evil practices that led to the murder of these prophets. Jesus abhors their strict legalistic requirements which were far removed from authentic worship where love and compassion prevail. In others words, He was telling them that they were no different from their murderous forefathers.
Jesus is the ultimate prophet. His prophetic mission was and is to bring glad tidings to the poor (Luke 4:18). As His followers, we carry the burden of continuing this prophetic mission. It is therefore the duty of every baptized person to voice out the Word of God to everywhere though at times, it is dangerous to do so.
As prophets, we are privileged to have the “key of knowledge” which we must use to build up His kingdom. Thus, it becomes necessary that we always do personal introspection to see if we are indeed bringing people to Christ or driving them away from the church because of our untoward behavior. Woe to us if we become the hindrance instead of the door to the kingdom.