“ . . . 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
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
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.