“Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!”
On the occasions when Jesus refers to persons from the Old Testament, it’s usually Moses or Abraham of whom He speaks. Today’s Gospel passage, though, is the only time that Jesus refers to Abel (along with the parallel passage in Matthew 23:34).
What’s intriguing about Jesus’ reference to Abel is that He speaks about him in relation to the Old Testament prophets. Jesus speaks about “the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world”. Clearly Jesus doesn’t agree with those modern scholars who consider the first generations of mankind in Genesis to be literary creations. After all, why would Jesus’ own generation, as He declares, be charged with the blood of a fictional character?
Regardless, we need to reflect on why Jesus included Abel among the prophets. Certainly, like the prophets, Abel was murdered for professing his belief in God. But his profession was not made verbally, as prophets usually proclaim their prophecies. In the fourth chapter of Genesis, we hear that Abel “brought to the Lord an offering… of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering He had no regard” [Gn 4:3,4-5].
It might seem cavalier to say that Cain and Abel were engaged in the first of mankind’s “liturgy wars”. Nonetheless, Jesus pointing our attention to the prophetic nature of right worship reminds us of the need for “orthodoxy” within the Mystical Body of Christ.