13 Oct, Thursday of Week 28

Rom 3:21ff. All have sinned, Jews and Gentiles alike, and are now undeservedly justified by faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for all.

Lk 11:47ff. In opposing Jesus and plotting his death, the Pharisees and Lawyers have taken sides with those who killed the prophets of old.

Redeeming Blood

In Romans Paul explores the basis of his gospel and entire ministry: namely, that all people, whatever their race, are spiritually dependent on Jesus. Ephesians, which may be a composite document drawn from Paul’s writings and preaching, begins with an early church hymn of wonder and adoration. By contrast, today’s gospel is similar to the “woe” or “curse” passages of the Old Testament.

Many rich theological phrases bring depth and Old Testament resonance to Paul’s writings, each with its own specific nuance of meaning. Such words include: justice of God, the glory of God, redemption, blood, the law or Torah, choice by God, divine favour, mystery, fullness of time, Christ’s headship. For our meditation we choose one of these, namely blood, which occurs in all three readings for today. Through Christ’s blood he achieves expiation for all who believe (Romans); through his blood we have been redeemed (Ephesians); his blood joins that of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world (Luke). Clearly a positive life-giving meaning is assigned to the blood of Christ.

The key text on blood in the Old Testament is in the liturgical book of Leviticus, where blood evokes a whole series of meanings and emotions, the most basic being that the life of a living body is in its blood (Lev 17:11). It is, therefore, as life, and not as the symbol of death, that the blood of Christ mysteriously unites us with God and with one another. Blood was sprinkled on the altar and on the people when the covenant of life was sealed between Yahweh and the Israelites (Exod 24:6-8). Each of us is a single, living person when warm blood flows from heart to head and hands and feet uniting all the members.

When Paul writes to the Romans, “through his blood God made Christ the means of expiation for all who believe,” he is saying that Christ’s death and resurrection have established a bond of life in all who are one in Christ Jesus. The focus of attention is not on the death (even though this agonizing event is not to be overlooked), but on the new life which the risen Christ suffuses into our midst. Because this “life” or “blood” of Christ is so pure, vigorous and divine, we are cleansed of all impurities within our system and are granted a supernatural energy and perception.

Jesus also returns to the theme of blood in his controversy with a group of Pharisees and lawyers. When he condemns them for erecting monumental tombs over the graves of the prophets, it is not that he is opposed to honouring the prophets. Typical of the blood-symbolism, Jesus wants to honour the dead, not so much by concentrating on their dead bones nor even on their dead memory, but by continuing their life and imitating their selfless concern for others, especially for the poor and for others in desperate need; we too are meant to stand up for the cause of justice, for other people’s dignity and rights.

First Reading: Romans 3:21-30

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.

Gospel: Luke 11:47-54

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 toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

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