|Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas,
priest and doctor
2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10
Psalm 89:20, 21-22, 25-26
“…who ever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness” Mark 3:29
Whoa? What a tough gospel passage we contemplate today! In it, Jesus speaks of the only sin that is unforgiveable, in this life and the next. First of all, it may surprise you that there is such a thing—an unforgiveable sin, that is. It surprised me. After all, don’t we speak of and cherish that belief that God’s forgiveness is always a possibility? But, in today’s gospel, Jesus essentially says that’s true—except for one circumstance. And, what is that one? Murder? Rape? No, Jesus speaks of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Huh? I don’t know about you, but I’m confused.
To catch a glimpse of what I think we are to see, we have to put this passage in context. The situation was this: The Pharisees, who did not want to accept that Jesus had the authority of God in his actions, accused Jesus of being in partnership with Satan when exorcising demons. In other words, Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, but the Pharisees revile the Holy Spirit by trying to make people think that Jesus behavior is satanic. Thus, when Jesus makes this statement he is warning the Pharisees—serving notice that their attributions put them in ultimate jeopardy.
So, what is Jesus saying here? What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? And, what is the lesson to learn from this passage? What difference should it make in my life?
I think the key is in the word “blaspheme.” What does it mean to blaspheme? According to Webster’s, blaspheme means to speak of or address with irreverence, to revile, to abuse. Blasphemy is defined as the act of showing contempt for God—or in this case the Holy Spirit.
Hey! This is getting scary! Who among us has not shown contempt for the Holy Spirit? Oh, we didn’t think of it as contempt, but we didn’t do as we were called, nudged, or pushed. Ever sensed that the Spirit wanted you to love someone you found unloveable? Felt the Spirit nudging you to go a direction that wasn’t the one you wanted to take? What did you do? And, me? I wish I could claim otherwise but…
Does that mean that you and I are beyond forgiveness? Is that what Jesus is saying here? I think not. So, what sets our “contempt” apart from that depicted in today’s gospel? What makes their behavior blasphemy and ours not? As I reflect on today’s passage, I think contempt or irreverence becomes blasphemy when it is deliberate and public slander. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit—we are not “merely” disregarding the Holy Spirit, we are publicly and knowingly reviling the Holy Spirit, as when the Pharisees defined Jesus’ behavior as Satanic.
Whew! That was close…but wait, before you go…let me leave you
with a question that keeps popping into my head. While we may not
knowingly revile the Holy Spirit, do you and I always recognize the Holy
Spirit among us? Can I hear the Spirit when it speaks to me in the
voice of my enemy? Or, do I only “hear” evil? Can I feel the
Spirit when it comes in the eyes of the homeless man I see every day when
I drive to work? Or, do I only feel contempt? Hmmm…no,
maybe not blasphemy…but worthy of one who knows the good news?
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