It certainly seems like Jesus was being a little harsh with the people in today’s Gospel reading. They weren’t even alive, most likely, when the prophets were killed. But the prophets were, indeed, killed by their ancestors, and now they are building memorials to those prophets, while still ignoring the prophets’ message.
And the thing is, they could have had an “out.” They could have been forgiven for those ancestral, societal sins, by simply turning to the Word of God present among them, repenting of their sins, and entering the kingdom of God. But, instead, predictably, the Pharisees and scribes try to detain Jesus, the Word of God, and interrogate him, so that they could have something against them
We have to be on the lookout for any trace of this behavior in us. We can’t double down on the sins of those who have murdered the prophets by neglecting the poor and the marginalized and refusing to be of service to others. We have to put our worship into practice and distance ourselves from the scribes and Pharisees who focused on lip service to the law and their own convenience, rejecting the word of God proclaimed to them.
And we have to be particularly observant of the prophets we have heard, because, unlike those who murdered the prophets who just heard the word of God, we have the Word of God, Jesus Christ, in our midst: on our tongues and in our hearts.