|Hebrews 9:15, 24-28
When I was in theology one of my professors of New Testament said that the most remarkable thing about Jesus for the people of his time and place was that he was not remarkable or even noticeable at all. I thought this rather puzzling but the professor went on to say that we view Christ through the Gospels, through the Church and her traditions, and through art, yet, at the time of Jesus people who could REALLY see Christ were those who could see him through faith. For the majority, however, Christ was simply an ordinary person.
In todayís Gospel we hear of a group, the scribes, who like many do not recognize who Jesus is. They accuse him of using the power of Satan, the very power of evil, to expel demons. Jesus refutes this through logic and images: evil cannot expel evil, a kingdom divided cannot endure, a house divided cannot stand, and an army containing dissenters cannot survive.
Then Jesus pauses and speaks to the gravity of the situation he and the scribes are in. He explains that all sins will be forgiven except those of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Now for centuries the Church has puzzled over what exactly the unforgivable sin might be. My mother was not a theologian but as I was growing up she made many pronouncements on this topic. She was convinced that the unforgivable sin was intimately tied to sibling rivalry, not doing homework and burping for the entertainment of oneís peers. But that could not have been the case for she was most forgiving of my erring ways provided I told my sisters I was sorry, sat and actually completed my homework, or said excuse me and took my gastric gymnastics outside.
But think of the ordinary Jesus. I donít believe that the unforgivable sin is not recognizing Christ for we know in the Gospels that he performed many miracles and acted compassionately to all so that we might believe. He was also very patient as people gradually came to belief, as in the man who was born blind told of in the Gospel of John (chapter 9). But if people simply rejected Him he could not use his healing and forgiving power.
We know that even today we do sometimes not recognize Christ in the poor, the oppressed, the unborn, in those different from us and in those the same as us. We need to accept the Holy Spirit to enliven our faith, to see with Gospel eyes rather than ordinary eyes, to find Christ in the world today and recognized good even though it be surrounded and threatened by evil.
So maybe the unforgivable sin was in not accepting the Spirit and thus accepting the power from God, which we all need, to see Christ in the world and to heal rather than divide further this fragmented planet on which we live. Maybe the unforgivable sin is in not accepting the forgiveness the Sprit brings for God is merciful and can forgive all.
Paul reminds us in the first reading that Christ has taken away our sins once and for all. We need to recognize and accept this. We need to pray for the Spirit to have the faith to let Christ in to forgive us. So too, we need, in turn, to be forgiving. For perhaps the problem is not in simply being forgiven (the most important and spectacular of Christís miracles although most did not recognize that) but in accepting forgiveness, in allowing ourselves to be forgiven.
Perhaps itís our nature to focus on the unforgivable sin even though
Jesus says something even more remarkable in this passage: ďevery sin will
be forgiven.Ē To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to not accept
the power to recognize Christ and thus be healed and forgiven. These
are one and the same thing in the Gospels. So let us accept the Spirit,
the enlightener and the power of forgiveness, and let us in turn be enlighteners
and forgivers, bold to ask for forgiveness when we need it (for to ask
for forgiveness is to honor rather than blaspheme the Spirit) and bold
to find Christ in ALL persons.
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