Gen 3:9-15; Psalm 130; 2Cor 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35
Blasphemy of the Scribes
I read an inspiring story narrated by Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She found a little girl in the street. She took her in their children’s home. There was always good food, nice clothes, and comfortable room for her. After a few hours, the girl ran away. Saint Mother Teresa looked for her. But she could not find her. After some days, the saint found her again in the street and brought her again in the children’s home. Saint Mother Teresa asked her sisters to follow the little girl wherever she went. The little girl ran away again. But the sisters followed her and learned where she was going and why she kept running away.
The sisters discovered that the little girl’s mother was living under a tree on a city street. There were three stones and the mother did her cooking there. Mother Teresa went and witnessed the joy of the little girl with her mother. She asked the little girl, “Why did you not want to stay with us? You had so many beautiful things at the children’s home.” The little girl politely replied, “I could not live without my mother. She loves me.”
For me the sisters were guilty of rash judgment or calumny because, in the first place, they thought that this little girl was a bad one but at the end only to find out, she was not.
The scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, were guilty of a sin called “calumny,” or slander because they uttered blasphemous words against Jesus. They said: “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons,” (v. 22).
Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 2477 teaches us to respect for the reputation of other persons and this respect forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. The Catechism states a person becomes guilty of calumny, who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
The Catechism also speaks of a lesser sin called “rash judgment” and a person becomes guilty of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor. It appears quite clear that the scribes were gravely guilty of these two sins.
We too are guilty of these two great sins of calumny and rash judgment. Like for example, we say to a dirty person: “You look like B’laan (indigenous people of Minday!” So what a B’laan look-like? When we encounter a person with a long hair, we immediately said: “You look like a rebel.” So we are guilty of these sins too.
What’s important to note in these blasphemous words spoken against Jesus is that if they did not commit these sins of calumny and rash judgment, they would not utter these blasphemous words. But they had committed and these sins can be very damaging.
If we were the object of such harshness from another, it would most likely make us be overwhelmed with shock, hurt, anger and confusion. It’s very difficult to remain indifferent to such an attack.
But what did Jesus do? He addressed their condemnation and then pointed out that what they spoke was a “sin against the Holy Spirit.” This form of sin cannot be forgiven. According to Eric Stoutz (catholicexchange.com) that looking at the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sin against the Holy Spirit is the “deliberate refusal” to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness (no. 1864) and therefore cannot be forgiven. Six species of this sin have been identified over time as sins against the Holy Spirit such as: (1) Despair; (2) Presumption; (3) Impenitence or a firm determination not to repent; (4) Obstinacy; (5) Resisting divine truth known to be such; and (6) Envy of another’s spiritual welfare.
Stoutz continued that the one who despairs “ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God” (no. 2091). Despair is directly contrary to the theological virtue of hope, which is, in part, a reliance on the grace of the Holy Spirit (Catechism, no. 1817).
Presumption is a sin against the Holy Spirit inasmuch as one presumes he can save himself apart from the grace of the Holy Spirit or that God will save him without conversion (cf. Catechism, no. 2092).
Impenitence clearly resists the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to conversion and repentance (cf. Catechism, nos. 1430-33).
Obstinacy is akin to impenitence, because one not only resists the grace of the Holy Spirit, but willfully persists in what he knows to be grave sin. Sometimes we say: “Why should I go to confession, I don’t any sin.” It is unforgivable if we refuse to repent and are not open to change. This is frightening and results in eternal damnation.
Resisting divine truth is to resist that which one knows to have been revealed by the Holy Spirit as necessary to “divine and catholic faith.” One is guilty of heresy, thereby cutting themselves off from God (cf. Catechism, no. 2089).
And finally, envy is a sin against the Holy Spirit because it was through Satan’s envy that death entered the world (cf. Catechism, no. 2538; Wis. 2:24). When one is envious of the spiritual good of another, he places himself on the level of Satan who wanted God’s glory for Himself rather than humbly accepting the gifts God had given him (Ezek. 28:11-19). One must accept the blessings God has given him rather than look at how God has blessed another and desire that for himself. Envy of another’s spiritual good is a sin against the Holy Spirit inasmuch as it is the Holy Spirit who pours out spiritual gifts to the faithful.
But how can we reconcile these words of Jesus: “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of everlasting sin,” (v. 30) with our reliance on the Father’s infinite love and mercy for our salvation, such that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
The short answer is from definition. The following is from a commentary by Saint John Paul II on the Scriptural prohibition of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. Saint John Paul II said: “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” (Dominum et Vivificantem, Encyclical Letter on the Holy Spirit, no. 46). Thus, while it is usually defined as speaking against God (see Catechism, no. 2148), in this case blasphemy is “the refusal to accept salvation.”
So we should never become so entrenched in our sin and, especially, in our own self-righteousness that we are not willing to listen, reason, and humbly change when we realize we were wrong. The scribes were not open to change and this is the worst part of their sin.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B
See Other Homily Sources