"If we had lived in th days of our ancestores, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophet's blood" (Matt 23:30).
We have seen much in the news of late about the power of monuments. Figures chosen for statues in public places as heroes often do not meet the test of time, and changing perspectives challenge their roles in history. Civil War memorials glorifying men who fought to preserve slavery are rightly seen as an affront to the descendants of slaves and to the national ideal of equality that emerged from that bloody conflict.
Jesus pointed to memorials to the prophets in Jerusalem to criticize those who claimed to honor them in death, though in life their ancestors had killed those same prophets. It was the height of hypocrisy to praise them now that they were safely dead while rejecting their powerful call to reform.
Many prophets are not accepted in their own time and place because their message is ahead of history. How many of us regret that we came so late to protesting the injustice of voter suppression and lack of civil rights for blacks in the 1950s and 1960s? Even the churches were slow to advocate the human rights of millions of citizens. In the future, will we admit our failures now to stand with the poor and the oppressed of today because they seemed invisible to us even as we benefited from their suffering? Low-wage workers, migrant field labor, exploited women, immigrants and refugees turned away from from our abundant table of life because of fear and greed.
The Living Voice of Jesus calls out any kind of hypocrisy. If we profess high ideals and preach love, we must practice them. Otherwise history will judge us to be white washed tombs filled with dead bones. Jesus' stinging rebuke of the scribes and the Pharisees is our wake-up call to live our faith now so that history will honor us tomorrow.