Sunday, January 22, 2017


Homily for January 23rd, 2017: Mark 3:22-30.

          “Every sin will be forgiven mankind,” Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “and all blasphemies men utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” These words are difficult. We find them, in different versions, in all three of the so-called synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. From the beginning the words have caused heart-searching and anguish, especially for people inclined to scrupulosity. What can we say about them?

          Here is what the Catholic Catechism says: “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and final loss.” [1864] Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit does not properly consist, then, in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to us through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross.

          Pope St. John Paul II explained it thus: “If Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven either in this life or in the next, it is because this ‘non-forgiveness’ is linked, as to its cause, to ‘non-repentance’, in other words to the radical refusal to be converted. . . Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then, is the sin committed by the person who claims to have a ‘right’ to persist in evil -- in any sin at all -- and who thus rejects redemption. One closes oneself up in sin, thus making impossible one's conversion, and consequently the remission of sins, which one considers not essential or not important for one's life. This is a state of spiritual ruin, because blasphemy against the Holy Spirit does not allow one to escape from one's self-imposed imprisonment and open oneself to the divine sources of the purification of consciences and of the remission of sins.” [Dominum et vivificantem, 46.]

          And Pope Francis says again and again: “God never grows tired of forgiving us. It is we who go tired of asking for forgiveness.” Committing the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit means, therefore, refusing to ask for forgiveness, and perseverance in such refusal until the end.