Daily Reflection
January 26th, 2004
Steve Kline
Public Relations
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Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops
2 Tm 1:1-8 or
Ti 1:1-5
Ps 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10
Mk 3:22-30

“ . . . whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” Mark 3:29

When my youngest daughter was 3 years old, she underwent a significant surgery. She fully recovered, but for months, it seemed that the sole focus of my life was this little girl’s well-being. It was a time of great growing-up for me, as if some force tapped me on the shoulder and said, “What is happening here is important, and it will require all of your attentiveness and ability, because you must do and be certain things as this child’s father.”

I feel like something similar takes place when I read today’s Gospel. There is gravity and urgency in Jesus’ tone as he talks about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It rivets my attention. I struggle with this passage. How can it be our all-loving, forgiving Lord could ever say anyone will never have forgiveness?

Our age seems jaded about words like “blasphemy.” Why would Jesus make this extreme statement about blasphemy? Perhaps because He is telling us that what He is talking about is important, and that it will require all of our attentiveness and ability. Perhaps He is telling us that even as He is all-loving and forgiving, still we must do and be certain things as His children.

The footnote in my Bible explains that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is an “everlasting sin” because it attributes to Satan the fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit. I understand condemning the cold, calculated cynicism involved in attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to evil. But why the absolute insistence on everlasting sin, never to be forgiven?

Well, maybe we need to know that there is a territory where our choices might lead us, from which there is no coming back. I am responsible to be aware of, respect and respond to the work of the Holy Spirit when I encounter it. Why? Because its source is my salvation, and if I have an ounce of gratitude about that, it will be manifest in the way I conduct my life. If, however, I not only choose not to respect and respond to the Holy Spirit, but I label it as a great evil, the consequences are awful. So this state of everlasting sin is not something imposed by God, it is the result of deliberate choices.

And these words that are such a challenge to me are not, after all, inconsistent with God’s loving, forgiving nature. In fact, they are loving in the extreme. The Lord is leading me to be very grown-up here, very autonomous in my choices. And He is being a very good friend in clueing me in to the consequences of certain choices.

Today is the feast day of Saints Timothy and Titus, who receive meticulous instruction, in today’s first readings, about their behavior as pastors to faith communities. They are told that they must do and be certain things as God’s instruments in guiding His Church. Timothy is urged to be unabashed in public expression of his faith. Titus is asked to recruit servants of the Church throughout the towns of Crete. Put simply, both are asked to make right choices. Just like you and me. And the choice is always ours to make.

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