10th Sunday in Ordinary Times
Genesis 3:9-15; 2 Cor. 4:13-5:1; Gospel of Mark 3:20-35
Sin Against the Holy Spirit – Self-Centred Love?
Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 10 June 2018

In today’s Gospel of St Mark, there are two very striking statements of Jesus that we could reflect on as it seems to me, they may probably be the questions you are seeking clarification after hearing the Gospel proclaimed. 

The first statement of Jesus is when He pronounced, “I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.”  To put it differently, we have all heard this sin described as “The Sin against the Holy Spirit”, and if we commit it, it would not be forgiven.  The baffling question we all have is, “How can sin not be forgiven?  Jesus even says in today’s Gospel that “all men’s sins will be forgiven.”  So, is Jesus contradicting Himself in today’s Gospel? 

We need to first look at the context of what Jesus has just proclaimed.  In today’s Gospel, we hear that such a great crowd is clamouring for the attention of Jesus that He could not even have a meal.  And, within this crowd are the scribes from Jerusalem who were accusing Jesus of being possessed by Beelzebul, the prince of darkness, and using such evil powers to casts out devils.  This accusation was a legal charge against Jesus for exercising satanic powers.  And if proven guilty, Jesus could suffer the penalty of banishment or execution. 

As such, Jesus could not allow such very serious accusations and evil suspicion to be built and left unchecked.  And so, Jesus exposes their evil accusations by pointing out in parables, the absurdity that Satan cannot cast our Satan; that a divided kingdom cannot last, and a divided household too cannot stand.  And, He as the Son of God, has the power to bind Satan. 

In this context, we can understand that the “Sin against the Holy Spirit” is the mortal sin that Jesus used to describe the evil accusations of the scribes from Jerusalem who were trying to condemn Him as satanic in His power, instead of Him being the Saving Power of the Son of God. 

Put it differently, the “Sin against the Holy Spirit” if applied to us could be describe as the total rejection of the Holy Spirit, the total refusal of receiving God’s Mercy and forgiving Love, and deliberate and total condemnation of the Goodness of God in every way. 

One Jesuit spiritual writer, Fr James Kubicki shares, “When someone does something wrong against us, we feel strongly that something must be done to right the wrong, in order to bring balance and order into the situation.  Recalling his childhood days he says, when my ball smashed the window of my neighbour, I wanted to run away.  But then, I had done this in the past, and realised that it had made matters worse.  Moreover, I know that my neighbour is a nice man.  So, reflecting for a moment, I decided to do the right thing.  I knocked on his door and confessed my guilt. 

As expected, my kind neighbour forgave me.  However, he also reminded me that the window is still broken and needs repairing.  And, it is not enough for me to say “I am sorry” and be forgiven.  Someone needs to fix the window and pay for it, and that someone should be me.  This is because, while there is forgiveness, there is also justice.  And, until I satisfy justice, my good relationship with my neighbour is at least strained, if not broken.  Will he trust me again, if I don’t take the responsibility for my mistake? 

So, it costs me fifty dollars of my savings to repair the broken window and the relationship.  But, what if I didn’t have the money?  In that case, because I cannot repair the damage I caused, and that the justice that is required, the owner must then bear the costs of the repairs through his mercy, and suffer for my irresponsible behaviour. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is precisely what Jesus has done for us, by dying on the Cross.  Through His Mercy, our sins have been forgiven, if we believe and live in His Love and Ways.  The question that you and I need to reflect on today is “Are we willing to repent for the wrongs that we have done and the good that we have failed to do?”  If so, then where there is repentance, we will never sin against the Holy Spirit, and in fact, our sins will be forgiven, through God’s Mercy and His Willingness to Suffer for us.  In other words, insofar as we are humble enough to face the truth and accept the consequences of our sinfulness, and seek God’s Forgiving Mercy and Love, all our sins will be forgiven. 

This leads us to the second statement of Jesus that needs clarification.  When the crowd told Jesus, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you,” and Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?  . . . Anyone who does the Will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.”  In proclaiming this, Jesus was affirming the Truth that the needs of our biological family cannot be set above and as … more important than God’s Will.  God’s Will must be of utmost important in our lives, as it was in Jesus’ life of fulfilling His Father’s Will.  How then do we put God’s Will before our family and our own needs, you may ask? 

There is a story of a young businessman, David who had fallen in love with a well-known and beautiful woman, Julie.  As he grew to love Julie more and more, and wanted to marry her, he just wanted to be doubly sure that she was truly what he thinks her to be; a good, loving and truly respectable person.  So, without revealing his own identity, he hired a private detective to investigate on her, through some agency.  After some months, the final report was sent to him.  With great excitement, he read the report, and it that says, “Miss Julie has an excellent reputation.  Her past is spotless, her associates beyond reproach. The only hint of uncertainty and scandal in recent months is that she has been seen to be in the company of a young businessman whose reputation is doubtful.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, we can see from this story that it is David who is the main problem; not Julie whom he wanted to marry.  And so, if we want to live God’s Will more fully and wholeheartedly and to put God’s Will before even our family’s Will, then the starting point and the first person to look at and be suspicious of is ourselves; not others.

One of the biggest challenges of growing in “holiness” and in our relationship with Jesus is to face the truth of our own imperfections and sinfulness instead of looking at the imperfections and sinfulness of others.  It is also, like the young boy who broke the window of his good neighbour and wanted to run away, but finally realised that to run away from the problem, which he did in the past, made matters worse.  But, when he admitted his guilt of having broken the window, and even when he had no money to pay for the repairs of the window, his good neighbour willingly bore the suffering and paid for the repairs, out of love and mercy for him.  More graphically, in the Gospels, Jesus has reminded us not to see the “splinter in our neighbour’s eye when we have a plank in our own.” 

And so, as I conclude and sum up, let us first draw consolation for ourselves and with gratitude to God, that the fact that we are here for Mass, in many ways do indicate that we have the gift of faith, hope and love for Jesus.  As such, the “eternal Sin” against the Holy Spirit does not apply to us. 

However, when it comes to Jesus’ statement of having to put God’s Will as being more important than our own will and our family’s will, then I think there is much that we can reflect on, in our lives, beginning with our own imperfections and sinfulness.  This is because the “selfish love” we have for ourselves can truly blind us into thinking that the problems and challenges of our lives are caused by others, when in fact we are our own obstacles to growing in our relationship with Jesus, as in the story of David.

For this, let us reflect on three points:  first, we need to pray for the grace of humility of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds to see our imperfections and sinfulness more clearly, and the strength and willingness to accept them graciously.  Second, we need to pray for the grace of a deeper commitment to follow the Ways and Compassionate Love of Jesus as His companion and disciple more fully.  And third, to pray for the wisdom and love to seek and live the Father’s Will, as the deepest desire of my daily living, as Jesus, Mary and all the saints have shown us.  And, to believe that this is not impossible, if we take one faithful step at a time . . . with God’s Light, Love and Strength.

(Adapted from: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred
Heart of Jesus, A Heart on Fire, by James Kubicki, SJ; Ave Maria Press: Nortre Dame, IN 46556; 2012: pp.100-101.

(Ref: The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol.VII, The Gospels and Narrative Literature, Jesus and the Gospels, Matthew, Mark: Abingdon Press, Nashville: Ed.2015: pp.425-427).

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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