“…Woe to you! for you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; 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,’ that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required of (ἐκζητηθήσεται) this generation.” (Lk 11: 47-51)
How chilling, that in this series of “woes” on the Pharisees and lawyers, the Lord equates their “building the tombs of the prophets” with condoning the killing of the prophets. Clearly, our Lord knew that the usual meaning behind “building a tomb” of a prophet, – just like financing a church-building in honor of certain saints or martyrs, – is to honor the prophets/saints, and not their killers or persecutors. But in the case of the “building-projects” of the Pharisees and lawyers, our Lord interprets their meaning as condoning the enemies of the prophets. Why? Because the Pharisees and lawyers, who continued to reject Christ, were filled with the same spirit as the prophet-killers before them. Hence their external acts of “honoring” prophets, like building their tombs, were understood by the Lord to express precisely the opposite of what they meant ostensibly.
So, in our Church’s reading for this November 1, when many Christians celebrate the feast of “All Saints” (a national holiday here in Austria), I’m reminded of the obvious fact that external veneration of the saints is also to be aligned with being “on their side” in Spirit. I’m also reminded not to be discouraged by any perceived weakness of “their side,” of God’s messengers or voice(s), in our today. More powerful voices may seem to drown them out sometimes, or even cast them out and destroy them, in our broader society, – or even occasionally in our church-communities. But God doesn’t “forget” those He sends us, as Christ tells us above, and just as we, ultimately, don’t forget them, but celebrate their memory. Let me do so, not externally only, but in their Spirit. All Saints, pray to God for us!