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.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleading. (R./)
If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
for this we revere you. (R./)
My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak. (R./)
Jesus said to scribes and Pharisees,
"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.
Paul bases his entire ministry on the belief that all human beings, of whatever race, are saved through Jesus Christ. By contrast, today's gospel alludes to the murder of many prophets in Old Testament times.
Many Old Testament terms resonate in Paul's writings. They include: the justice of God, the glory of God, redemption, blood, the law or Torah, choice by God, divine favour, mystery, fullness of time, the promise of a messianic saviour. For our meditation let's reflect on the connection between blood and life. Through shedding his blood Christ achieves expiation for all who believe; his blood joined to that of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world. Clearly a positive life-giving meaning is assigned to the blood of Christ.
When Paul affirms that God made the blood of Christ the means of expiation for all believers, he is drawing from the imagery of Old Testament sacrifices that were meant to purge away sin. This notion of vicarious atonement is alien to many Christians today, who seek a different explanation for the saving power of the cross. At any rate, Paul believes that Christ's death and resurrection were and are life-giving. They have established a bond of life in all who believe in Jesus. The focus of his attention is not on the Passion itself, but on the new life which the self-giving of Christ suffuses into our midst. Because the outpoured life-blood of Christ is so pure, vigorous and divine, we are cleansed of all impurities and are given a share in divine life.
Jesus mentions the blood of martyrs in his controversy with Pharisees and lawyers. When he condemns them for putting monuments over the graves of the prophets, it is not that he objects to honouring the prophets. We ought to honour the dead, not by monuments to their mortal remains, but by imitating their concern for others. Like the prophets, we are meant to stand up for the cause of justice, for other people's dignity and rights.
Jesus criticizes the lawyers, experts in the Jewish Law, for taking away the key of knowledge. They have rejected the teaching of Jesus and now prevent others from coming to authentically know God. They have not been true to their calling as teachers of the ways of God. Jesus reveals God more fully than any other human being could. In rejecting his words, the lawyers were taking away the key of knowledge, failing to recognize how God was at work in Jesus.
God has given us the key to knowing him, by giving us Jesus. He is the key to this special knowledge and we will always be learners from him. The mistake is to think ourselves fully informed about God. We are more like infants, always having much to learn. That is why Jesus had prayed to the Lord of heaven and earth, "You have hidden these things from the learned and the clever and have revealed them to infants." When we recognize this we will come to know God more fully.