Today’s gospel demonstrates the mounting opposition to Jesus who, in turn, responds with justified anger to the observing guests at the dinner. Jesus is chided for not observing the ritual of washing his hands before eating. He sees right through the accusation: the self-righteousness of the accusers who care more for the externals of the faith than for its call to conversion.
A lawyer chimes in to say he and his kind are also insulted by Jesus’ scolding of the Pharisees.
This dinner is the setting for a major shift in the relationship between Jesus and his adversaries. What had been previously toleration has escalated to blatant anger and distrust on both sides. Something ominous is now brewing and Luke confirms this by saying the Pharisees began “setting traps to catch him in his speech.” Jesus and His opponents are swirling toward the vortex of his imminent end.
A “fierce hostility” impels their every move against him from this point on. The sting of his words–“Woe to you lawyers, you have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not gained access, yet you have stopped those who wish to enter”–
hang in the misty room long after Jesus has left. How I wish our government leaders would reflectively read this passage today. Political self-promotion, personal profit, rigid ideologies all serve to take away “the key of knowledge,” an intelligent discernment of how best to serve the country.
The question I ask myself in the context of this gospel is: How much of a Pharisee, scribe or lawyer am I ? Or, am I a follower of Christ?
—Sr. Mary Ann Flannery, S.C. is Executive Director of Jesuit Retreat House, Cleveland OH.