The Sins Against the Holy Spirit
October 15th Readings Reflection: Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.
“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. When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”
Today’s Gospel reading is not an easy one for our prideful natures to accept. There is one particular passage that I would like to focus on for this reflection, one that has a tendency to be confusing, especially in light of Divine Mercy:
“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.”
It can seem shocking to hear Jesus say that there are some sins that will not be forgiven. How is this compatible with God’s Divine Mercy, to which the Church has developed a special devotion thanks to St. Faustina? The answer lies in the Church’s teachings on moral theology. The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, recognizes six Sins Against the Holy Spirit. These are presumption of God’s mercy, despair, impugning the known truth, envy of another’s spiritual good, obstinacy in sin, and final impenitence.
In brief, despair means to give up hope that God can ever save us; we think that salvation is lost to us forever, and that there is consequently no reason to keep striving for it. Presumption is the exact opposite of despair: we think that we are guaranteed salvation and that we need not worry about whether we will get to Heaven. Impugning the known truth means to question the dogmas of the Faith, those teachings that the Church upholds as true and necessary for our salvation. This is also called heresy.
When we envy, we do not desire the good that is justly owed to our neighbour. When we envy another’s spiritual goods, we are wishing to deprive him of the sacred gifts that justly belong to him — the blessings and graces that God has bestowed upon his soul — because we are jealous of them. Obstinacy in sin means that we have no intention of repenting from our sinfulness and changing our ways; we are happy the way we are, and we do not care that our sin separates us from the love of God. Lastly, final impenitence means that we never repent, even on our deathbeds. We freely choose to enter into eternity fully attached to sin, rather than accepting God’s grace and repenting.
Thus, we can see that these sins are very, very serious. They all stem from a hardness of heart that refuses to accept God’s mercy. Thus, it is not God Who is denying His own mercy, but rather ourselves if we commit these sins. This is why Jesus said that those who sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven: these souls do not want to accept God’s mercy and the graces that He offers, but instead turn them away and choose to place themselves higher than God.
This can seem bleak and terrifying, but all is not lost. Our God is just and merciful, and He does not want to see us eternally damned. For this reason, He continues to offer us the grace to repent right up until our very last breath. However, as a priest at my parish recently reminded us in his homily, none of us knows when that will be. Therefore, we cannot wait to accept God’s graces; this present moment has been given to us for that very reason. May we pray for the grace to always trust in God’s mercy and to repent of our sins, so that we may one day be united with Him forever in Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You!