June 10, 2018
Fr. Forlano, St. Stanislaus Parish
Is there an unforgivable sin? Jesus says solemnly in today’s Gospel, “Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” What does Jesus mean by this? How does one “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit” and commit “an everlasting sin”? To understand what Jesus means, we have to go back to the “original sin” that is recounted in the 3rd chapter of Genesis and the Lord’s response to that sin. Adam and Eve succumb to the temptations of the Evil one – they eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, but the sin is much more than breaking a rule or not following a prohibition from God. We can tell this from the dialogue that God has with Adam. When God seeks out Adam after Adam sins, God does not condemn Adam. Rather, He asks him a question, “Where are you?” Adam explains that he has hid himself because he is afraid because he was naked. He feels vulnerable and threatened by God. We cover things up when we don’t trust the other – when we don’t have an intimate, loving relationship with the other. Adam was created in this intimate loving relationship with God. Adam and Eve, as the scripture says, “were naked without shame.” There was total transparency with God. But after the sin, Adam does not want to expose himself to God. The temptation is to think that God does not love him anymore. That because of the sin, God will reject him. When the Lord calls him on the sin, “You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”, Adam doesn’t say, “Yes, I’m sorry.” Rather, he blames Eve, and indirectly blames God for his sin. “The woman whom you put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” He is, in a sense, attributing to God the evil that has happened. Likewise, with Eve, the Lord doesn’t condemn her, but asks her to examine herself, “Why did you do such a thing?” Just like her husband, Eve doesn’t take responsibility for her action, but blames someone else: “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” By not admitting her fault to the Lord, she is hiding herself from God. It is the serpent who is condemned, but in the Lord’s pronouncement of the penalty, the Lord gives what has come to be known as the “proto-Evangelium” – the first Gospel – or “seed” of the “Good News” when he promises that a savior will come. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” The offspring of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. All the serpent can do is nip at his heel. Jesus, God born of a woman, is this offspring who will bring the victory over sin and death. God’s response to our sin is mercy right from the beginning. God will work out our salvation, his victory, in a way we cannot imagine or plan. The original sin is not to trust God and to take into our hands what belongs to God. The original sin is not the desire to be like God, but to try to fulfill that desire without God, by taking things into our own hands. The doubt or lack of trust is that I can’t bring my failure or sin to God. He won’t work it out. I, rather, have to present myself good to God for him to love me. Hence the blaming.
The Holy Spirit is the love of God – the love between the Father and the Son. So the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is to doubt that God is love, is to doubt that God is loving, and to doubt that love is victorious and will “work it out” and therefore, the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit hides his sinful self from God. The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin that is not confessed. And are we really confessing our sin if we blame God or blame someone else for our sin? To make a good confession is to be contrite – to take responsibility for what we’ve done and the choices we’ve made and say we’re sorry with the intent of not doing it again. When we blame others we are in a sense justifying our own action – therefore remaining in our sin. If we don’t bring it to God, the sin lasts – we are guilty of an everlasting sin.
The Holy Spirit moves where He wills and cannot be controlled. To try to manage or control the mysterious plan of God as it unfolds is to not trust the Holy Spirit. When things don’t go our way – when things turn out badly, how easily do we blame God? Or attribute what we don’t understand to some evil force? The scribes in the Gospel are attributing to Satan what Jesus is doing because Jesus doesn’t operate according to their vision or plan of who the Messiah should be. The one Jesus holds up as the model to follow is his mother Mary who says “yes” to what she doesn’t understand, “let it be done to me according to your Word” and opens herself totally to the working of the Holy Spirit. She says yes to the Cross, the most mysterious way – beyond human understanding – through which God saves us. We become “mother” and brothers to Jesus, we enter the intimate family of God, when we listen to him and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and his Mercy. Let’s pay attention to God’s question to us, “Where are you?” Where are we in our relationship with God? Do we trust him? Are we quick to blame others and God? Pay attention to the words we use when we examine our lives and even when we go to confession. Let’s pray for that grace to come to the Lord with all of ourselves, trusting that with the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.