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THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN

Read­ing Time: 9 minutes

‎(Ref. Texts: Gen 3:9–15; 2Cor 4:13–5:1; Mark 3:20–35)

Any­one who has viol­ated the law of Moses dies without mercy “on the testi­mony of two or three wit­nesses.” How much worse pun­ish­ment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, pro­faned the blood of the cov­en­ant by which they were sanc­ti­fied, and out­raged the Spir­it of grace?” (Heb 10:28–29).

Introduction

Since Novem­ber 26, 2017 (the 34th and Last Sunday of Year A), the Church has cel­eb­rated series of mys­ter­ies of human sal­va­tion. Dur­ing this Last Sunday of the Litur­gic­al Year, the Church cel­eb­rated, pro­claimed and com­mem­or­ated the Feast of Christ the King. On this day, the Church cel­eb­rated and renewed her faith­ful­ness to king­ship of God. God remains the only lov­ing, faith­ful and cred­ible King of the entire uni­verse. To this mys­tery, fol­lowed the pre­par­a­tions for the cel­eb­ra­tion of the mys­tery of incarn­a­tion. Through the Advent, the Church rejoiced and thanked God for His paternal love for His chil­dren and for the entire cre­ation. This love is mani­fes­ted in the gift of Jesus, the Christ, the only begot­ten Son of God. As John explained, God so much loved the world that He gave His Only Son, so that every­one who believes in him may not per­ish, but have etern­al life (cf. John 3:16). From the cel­eb­ra­tion of the mys­tery of incarn­a­tion, the Church began pre­par­a­tions for the mys­tery of mys­ter­ies, the mys­tery of the mis­sion, suf­fer­ing, death and resur­rec­tion of Christ. After this, or with­in this mys­tery were enclosed the mys­ter­ies of the Ascen­sion of Jesus into heav­en; the mys­tery of the gift of the Holy Spir­it; the mys­tery of the Most Holy Trin­ity; the mys­tery of the Body and Blood of Christ. The mater­i­al and espe­cially, the spir­itu­al well­being of the people of God are enclosed and con­tained in these mys­ter­ies. With the con­clu­sion of these mys­ter­ies of sal­va­tion, the Church returns to anoth­er sea­son in the spir­itu­al jour­ney of her chil­dren – the Ordin­ary Season.

This Sunday is the 10th Sunday of the year. It is the Sunday imme­di­ately after the solem­nity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The read­ings of this Sunday are meant to make us look inwards to find out if were are still in the grace of God. Sounds strange! Yes! It is strange to think if people who have just con­cluded the above mys­ter­ies are still in the grace of God. The Ordin­ary Time is the peri­od to put into prac­tice the fruits of the mys­ter­ies of our salvation.

Where are you?

After Adam and Eve devi­ated (that is, sinned. Sin is noth­ing but a devi­ation from the laid down norms) in the Garden of Eden, they became ashamed and temp­ted hid­ing from God. God called out to Adam: hK’Y<a; – Ayehka – Where are you? (Gen 3:9). On a purely ration­al level, God’s ques­tion makes no sense. Why? By vir­tue of being God, God already knows (or should know) where Adam is. M. Buber resolved this conun­drum (prob­lem) by cit­ing Rabbi Shneur Zal­man of Laidy. Accord­ing to Zal­man, “Ayehka – Where are you? “is the ques­tion God dir­ects to every per­son in every gen­er­a­tion who is try­ing to hide from God.” How does one hide from God? You hide from God when you are try­ing to impose on your­self a life or spir­itu­al­ity that does belong to you. That is, when you are doing everything pos­sible to force your­self to becom­ing what you are not meant to be, know­ing fully that you are not meant for that. You hide from God when you slug­gishly par­ti­cip­ate in the activ­it­ies of the com­munity and when you indol­ently carry out your respons­ib­il­ity. You hide from God when you expect someone to remind you of what you are sup­posed to know or do (cf. Jas 4:7). You hide from God through so many oth­er ways. God asked Adam this ques­tion because Adam changed his dom­i­cile or res­id­ence. Since God could no longer find Adam where He kept him, Adam should him­self tell God about his new residence.

To the ques­tion “where are you?”, Adam answered God “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen 3:10). Instead of Adam say­ing where he is, he ended up say­ing how he was. Hav­ing lost the grace of God, he could no longer identi­fy his loc­a­tion. Hav­ing lost his inno­cence, he now feels guilty and hides when no one is pur­su­ing him. Of course, his sin is now pur­su­ing him. In his quest to be like God, he lost his pos­i­tion in the pres­ence of God. He now becomes con­scious of his naked­ness. Before eat­ing the for­bid­den fruit, Adam had been naked. But imme­di­ately after going con­trary to God’s instruc­tion, he became ashamed of his naked­ness. His naked­ness which reflec­ted his inno­cence and spir­itu­al­ity, now becomes motive of sin and shame.

The unforgivable sin

Truly I say to you, people will be for­giv­en for their sins and whatever blas­phemies they utter; but who­ever blas­phemes against the Holy Spir­it can nev­er have for­give­ness, but is guilty of an etern­al sin” (Mark 3:28–29). In bib­lic­al Greek, the word amēn has many uses. How­ever, when it is used with the verb to say or to speak (legō), it indic­ates emphas­is, mean­ing what fol­lows is a sol­emn declar­a­tion of truth (cf. also John 1:51). There­fore, “truly I say to you…” means “…people will be for­giv­en for their sins and whatever blas­phemies they utter; but who­ever blas­phemes against the Holy Spir­it can nev­er have for­give­ness, but is guilty of an etern­al sin” is a sol­emn declar­a­tion, hence, it must be taken very ser­i­ous. Fol­low­ing Jesus’ declar­a­tion, there is a par­tic­u­lar sin that can­not be for­giv­en. What does this imply? Does it mean or imply the per­son will also not be able to enter the king­dom of God? In 1John 5:16, John says “if any­one sees his broth­er com­mit­ting a sin not lead­ing to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life to those who com­mit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” Con­tinu­ing in 1John 5:17, the same John cla­ri­fies that “all unright­eous­ness is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” If blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it is among those sins that lead to death, and which can­not be for­giv­en, then,

But what is this blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it? First, let us exam­ine what led Jesus to mak­ing this asser­tion. At the begin­ning of the Third chapter of the Gos­pel accord­ing to Mark (3:1–6), we read that on a cer­tain day, Jesus went into the Syn­agogue and there was a man with withered hand. Mark notes that the Phar­isees were care­fully watch­ing Jesus to see if he would cure the man on the Sab­bath day. This they did to find some­thing to charge him with. When even­tu­ally he cured the man, Mark says “the Phar­isees went out and imme­di­ately con­spired with the Hero­di­ans against him, how to des­troy him” (Mark 3:6). This attrac­ted much crowd to Jesus who con­tin­ued to cure those who were afflic­ted with one dis­ease or the oth­er. Even unclean spir­its fall down once they see him, shout­ing “You are the Son of God” (Mark 3:7–12). After choos­ing the Twelve dis­ciples (cf. Mark 3:13–19), Jesus went home and again, the crowd fol­lowed him to the extent he could not even eat. This made his earthly fam­ily rush to take him and even con­cluded Jesus “is out of his mind” (Mark 3:20–21). Besides his oppon­ents, Jesus also had his fam­ily to con­tend with.

Imme­di­ately, the Scribes said “He has Beelze­bul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons” (Mark 3:22). On hear­ing this, Jesus summoned them and made them under­stand that a house divided against itself can­not stand, and that Satan can­not rebel against him­self. It was after this that Jesus made the sol­emn declar­a­tion con­cern­ing the unpar­don­able sin (cf. Mark 3:23–29). In Mark 3:30, the author says Jesus made such declar­a­tion because they were say­ing “there is unclean spir­it in him.” Let us now get back to our ini­tial ques­tion on what con­sti­tutes blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it and why such sin can­not be for­giv­en. There are those who sus­tain that blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it is not offend­ing against the Holy Spir­it in words. This is wrong. It also includes verbal offence. On a stricter note, blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it con­sists in the refus­al to accept the sal­va­tion which God offers to man through the Holy Spir­it, work­ing through the power of the cross. Such blas­phemy is to reject the Holy Spir­it, to refuse rad­ic­ally to recog­nize sin and repent of it, and to block the heal­ing and for­give­ness offered by God. So the sin is not only unfor­giv­able because of its ser­i­ous­ness, but because the sin­ner also lacks the prop­er dis­pos­i­tion to seek for­give­ness and thereby to be for­giv­en. As St. Thomas Aqui­nas said, blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it “…excludes the ele­ments through which the for­give­ness of sin takes place.” In his Sys­tem­at­ic Theo­logy, W. Gru­dem[1] offers some explan­a­tions con­cern­ing this. For him, Jesus’ sol­emn declar­a­tion indic­ates that Jesus is speak­ing about a sin that is not simply unbe­lief or rejec­tion of Christ, but one that includes: 1) a clear know­ledge of who Christ is and of the power of the Holy Spir­it work­ing through him; 2) a wil­ful rejec­tion of the facts about Christ that his oppon­ents knew to be true; and 3) slan­der­ously attrib­ut­ing the work of the Holy Spir­it in Christ to the power of Satan. In such a case the hard­ness of heart would be so great that any ordin­ary means of bring­ing a sin­ner to repent­ance would already have been rejec­ted. Per­sua­sion of the truth will not work, for these people have already known the truth and have wil­fully rejec­ted it. Demon­stra­tion of the power of the Holy Spir­it to heal and bring life will not work, for they have seen it and rejec­ted it. In this case, it is not that the sin itself is so hor­rible that it could not be covered by Christ’s redempt­ive work, but rather that the sinner’s hardened heart puts him or her bey­ond the reach of God’s ordin­ary means of bring­ing for­give­ness through repent­ance and trust­ing Christ for sal­va­tion. The sin is unpar­don­able because it cuts off the sin­ner from repent­ance and sav­ing faith through belief in the truth. Con­tin­ue.…

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