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Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?

Monday January 24, 2022

Third Week of Ordinary Time

by Fr. David M. Knight

In today's reading, Mark tells us that next some “scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’” The official teachers of the Pharisee party thought he was not just crazy but possessed! Jesus responds with two teachings. First he says, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. So if in me Satan is casting out Satan he is finished.” And second, “No one can enter a strong man’s house… without first tying him up.” So Jesus must be stronger than the devil, not in league with him. So much for the argument of the scribes. But Jesus gives a third teaching addressed to all of us: “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never find forgiveness.” What is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”? Some people sin just out of weakness, or because they have been malformed by their culture. The truth is, most objections against the Catholic Church are objections against things she does not believe or teach — or against things her least representative members do, which can include priests and bishops! There is hope for people who “blaspheme” — or rail — against truth that has been presented to them distorted by the flawed ministry of humans. If nothing else, we can hope that when they die God will show them the truth— the things they misunderstood, the distortions they accepted, the counter-productive responses they made to situations they found themselves in — and say to them, “This is the real truth This is what I really am. Do you accept me now?” If this is the case, their “final judgment” about God will be their Final Judgment, even if they make it after the medical profession has pronounced them legally dead. Christians believe people are “dead” when God says they are; not when the doctors do! But some people actually embrace evil as good, and abhor good as evil. Some reject the inspirations and enlightenment of God himself. God will forgive them if they repent, but there is less hope that they will. They are blocking God’s best shot. (Compare this with Mark 12:6). Mark tells us Jesus said this “because they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” If people can’t tell the difference between the devil and God himself, they are in serious trouble. Initiative: Accept both what is human and what is divine in your experience of the Church and the Church’s ministry, but do not confuse one with the other.

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