The Lord said: “Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might 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 died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! 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.” When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say. (Luke 11:47-54)
Today Jesus finishes his very sharp words about those Pharisees who for all their external religious practices turn out to be murderers on the inside: in imitation of the way their ancestors killed the prophets, they would conspire to have Jesus himself killed.
Their essential defect in the understanding of their relationship with God was a focus on their own external actions in fulfillment of the law of the Covenant rather than on whether they were branches attached to God the Vine, whether they were in fact loving God with all they had and loving their neighbor to the extreme or whether they were opposing God and hating or slaying their neighbor.
When challenged, they grew more and more defensive to the point that they wanted this upstart from Nazareth out of their lives.
Defensiveness leading to violence.
The history of God’s chosen people, the Jews, and indeed, the history of the entire human family, is marked by the beneficiaries of God’s generosity repeatedly rebelling against God.
This rebellious spirit is within each one of us. As children of Adam and Eve, the initiators of mankind’s rebellion against God, we have a strong tendency to want to dictate how things should be in our lives and in the world, regardless of God’s providence or sovereignty.
When we interact with our loved ones, when we have challenging encounters at work, when a neighbor differs from our political views, we often find ourselves getting defensive. Anytime a difference of opinion seems to question our intelligence or integrity, our initial reaction is usually to assert our intelligence and integrity, even violently. If we can catch ourselves when we do that, if we can become aware of when we are acting defensively, we will capture a golden opportunity for spiritual growth.
Defensiveness exposes insecurities.
Insecurities expose areas in need of God’s grace and light. Jesus pointed out in his Sermon on the Mount that the meek and the poor of spirit are blessed. The peacemakers are blessed. Whenever we find ourselves reacting to something violently, it’s an opportunity to pause, ask ourselves where that reaction is coming from, and adjust the reaction to be more Christlike, more in harmony with virtues like humility, patience and tolerance.
How in his name can we turn on another child of God? Why do we think we have the right to bad mouth, demean, use our sarcasm to belittle another child of God?
Who put us in the seat of a judge? Haven’t we learned “Judge not, lest you be judged.”?
The truth is that we all have weak points, blind spots, areas where we need to work hard to grow in wisdom, fortitude, faith, and temperance. When someone triggers emotional defensiveness, we can rest assured that nine times out of ten they have exposed one of those weak points, giving us a golden opportunity to exercise one of those virtues.
It’s those virtues, when practiced daily, that serve to pave the way for our final union with him.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, may your word take root in my heart and transform all my thoughts and actions. Give me wisdom and understanding that I may know your will for my life and have the courage to live according to it.”
When we begin spiritually by putting the cart before the horse, by focusing too much on ourselves and our actions rather than God, when we “I will do” instead of “Let it be done to me,”), we begin the process of taking our eyes off of God and placing them on our actions and on ourselves. When that happens, we can start to drift away from God even in the midst of seemingly religious activity.