“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Luke 12:10).
This verse is often referred to as the unforgivable sin and it can be difficult to understand. What is Luke saying here? Also, if you have been reading this blog regularly you may have read more than once that God forgives us more than we can ever mess up, so you may be thinking, “What’s the deal? Why can’t we be forgiven for blaspheming the Holy Spirit?”
One way to approach the understanding of this verse is to refer to my reflection from yesterday, but then turn it on it’s head. I shared an example from my late teens in which I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, not so much aware I was doing so at the time. I followed my curiosity imparted on me by my teacher which led me to purchase a Bible, then I was led to leave a party and when I got home I had the urge to open my newly purchased Bible and did so. Because of each successive yes to the invitation and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I placed myself in a better position each time to hear the word of God.
Now, that experience could have taken a different turn. I could have resisted the initial curiosity that welled up within me from my teacher’s discussion and instead of going out to purchase a Bible, I could have stayed home that day and opened up my copy of The Stand and given it a second read. If then, each time I had the urge to purchase a Bible, I denied it, I would not have had a Bible when I went to that party. Instead of leaving the party I might have stayed. I would not have had the experience of reading the Bible that night, nor hearing God’s voice. Say each step did happen up to and including hearing God’s voice, but then I denied that I heard God, instead attributing the experience to some bad pepperoni pizza from the party. Each are examples of how I could have closed myself off to God’s communications.
God reaches out to us in many ways and just as we can open ourselves up to God, we can also close ourselves off to those potential opportunities of hearing him as well as dismissing examples of his communications as mere “coincidences.” With each denial, we further limit ourselves to the possibility of acknowledging an encounter with God and or even begin to doubt that he even exists. We could then develop “a mentality which obstinately sets the mind against the Spirit of God, and as long as that obstinate mindset perdures, God’s forgiveness cannot be accorded to such a person” (Fitzmeyer 1985, 964).
Yes, God loves us more than we can ever mess up, so much so that he gives us the freedom to reject him. He does not impose his will on his, but invites us. John the Baptist and Jesus got this, and this is why their emphasis on repentance was so preeminent in their preaching. If we turn to God with humility and contrition, true sorrow for our sins, he will forgive us. The danger of a consistent obstinate disposition, is that like a muscle that is not used, it will atrophy, so will our ability to see God working in our lives. We will become less and less able to see, we will become blind, our heart will become hardened. Now that does not mean God stops communicating, he does, but when we harden our heart, when we close ourselves off from him, and dismiss each invitation and attempt at communication, we are less and less able to receive the forgiveness he so thirsts to give us.
Let us continue to seek ways to experience God and share our experiences with others, though as invitations not as impositions. We need to remember to meet people where they are and as they are, accepting them and their dignity to say no to the invitation. Jesus gave us the gift of to be able to participate with the Holy Spirit, who is the Love that is shared between the Father and the Son. The more we say yes to his guidance and leading, the more we will see him in our everyday experiences, and the more we will experience and participate in his love. In this way, our life may be more attractive and inviting to others such that we may be the only Bible someone else ever gets the chance to read, and maybe, just maybe, they may hear God speaking to them through us.
Link for today’s Mass readings:
Fitzmeyer, Joseph A. The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV in the Anchor Bible. NY: Double Day, 1985.
Photo: Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center, great place to slow down and encounter God!