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Blaspheme against the Holy Spirit

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The passage from the Gospel according to St. Mark proclaimed this Sunday ends with a reference to sins against the Holy Spirit that will not be forgiven.

In the face of the Lord’s statement, it is inevitable that one would ask how it could be possible. After all the mercy of God is infinite.

St. John Paul II explained this warning of the Lord thus: “Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unforgivable? How should this blasphemy be understood? St. Thomas Aquinas replies that it is a question of a sin that is “unforgivable by its very nature, insofar as it excludes the elements through which the forgiveness of sin takes place.”

According to such an exegesis, “blasphemy” does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross. If man rejects the “convincing concerning sin” which comes from the Holy Spirit and which has the power to save, he also rejects the “coming” of the Counselor-that “coming” which was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery, in union with the redemptive power of Christ’s Blood: the Blood which “purifies the conscience from dead works.”

We know that the result of such a purification is the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, whoever rejects the Spirit and the Blood remains in “dead works,” in sin. And the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists precisely in the radical refusal to accept this forgiveness, of which he is the intimate giver and which presupposes the genuine conversion which he brings about in the conscience. 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. This means the refusal to come to the sources of Redemption, which nevertheless remain “always” open in the economy of salvation in which the mission of the Holy Spirit is accomplished. The Spirit has infinite power to draw from these sources: “he will take what is mine,” Jesus said. In this way he brings to completion in human souls the work of the Redemption accomplished by Christ, and distributes its fruits. 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.

The action of the Spirit of truth, which works toward salvific “convincing concerning sin,” encounters in a person in this condition an interior resistance, as it were an impenetrability of conscience, a state of mind which could be described as fixed by reason of a free choice. This is what Sacred Scripture usually calls “hardness of heart.” In our own time this attitude of mind and heart is perhaps reflected in the loss of the sense of sin…

In his farewell discourse Jesus linked these three areas of “convincing” as elements of the mission of the Paraclete: sin, righteousness and judgment. They mark out the area of that mysterium pietatis that in human history is opposed to sin, to the mystery of iniquity. On the one hand, as St. Augustine says, there is “love of self to the point of contempt of God”; on the other, “love-of God to the point of contempt of self.” The Church constantly lifts up her prayer and renders her service in order that the history of consciences and the history of societies in the great human family will not descend toward the pole of sin, by the rejection of God’s commandments “to the point of contempt of God,” but rather will rise toward the love in which the Spirit that gives life is revealed.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid