Sunday, November 14, 2010


We're told in Sacred Scripture that the only unforgivable sin is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

This is what Mark Shea from "Catholic Exchange" writes about the unforgivable sin:

The only unforgivable sin is the one Jesus warns of in Mark 3:22-30:

"And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin,” for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”"

Note the context of the warning: Jesus is speaking to people who have seen that he does good and that he is good — yet who deliberately and perversely call good “evil” and who deliberately and knowingly choose to reject the healing, deliverance, and forgiveness he offers as “satanic.” The reason they cannot be forgiven is not that Jesus doesn't want to forgive them, but because forgiveness requires acceptance in order to do us any good. It's like a man at the bottom of a well cursing the people who are lowering him a rope. If he takes out a knife and cuts off the rope so that he can't even take hold of it, he can't be saved. But that's not because his rescuers don't want to save him. A good rule of thumb is this: if you are worried you may have committed the unpardonable sin, chances are very high that you haven't. A man who is worrying that he has offended Jesus is generally not a man who is cursing Jesus as satanic and deliberately spitting on everything that is true, good, and beautiful.

There is no sin — no sin at all — that we bring to Jesus with contrition that he is not willing and able to forgive. Indeed, our very willingness to repent is itself a gift from him who loves us before we are even aware of him. But the nature of the unpardonable sin is that we refuse to bring it for forgiveness. Instead, we spit on repentance and forgiveness and on the One who offers it. If we choose to do that, we (as always) get what we most deeply desire. If our deepest desire is that God leave us alone, we shall have it. And that Cosmic Loneliness is what the Church refers to as “Hell.” But nobody goes there by accident. It takes rather a lot of concentrated effort in resisting the grace and love of God.

Happily, we do not have to go there, however. That is why Jesus came. He means to save us.

Mark Shea

Senior Content Editor

Catholic Exchange

My comments:

Of course, what is quoted above concerns Jesus' forgiveness and our acceptance of that forgiveness which depends on repentance and contrition and acknowledging God as God and as the source of all love, goodness and forgiveness. Accusing God and His goodness as satanic is unforgivable.

But what about the person who cannot forgive the man who entered his home and killed his family? Can the one who is injured by the mortal sin of another be saved if he cannot forgive the one who is guilty?

Jesus calls us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect and therein lies the conundrum. We're not perfect on this side of life, but Christ who is God initiates the process by which we will be made perfect--by Him and through His suffering, death and resurrection. He is the only one who can make it happen and it cost Him dearly.

This now falls into the realm of my opinion. If I were to die at this moment, I must tell you that I have not perfectly forgiven those who have harmed me in my life. I have nothing as serious as some do in terms of murder, rape, sexual abuse and mental cruelty. But still I harbor resentment and some bitterness. I have tried to forgive, but haven't completely or perfectly.

If I find myself in heaven after my death, I will be perfectly reconciled with everyone including God. It might take a bit of purifying fire at my personal judgment for this to occur and a long stint in the purifying fires of purgatory, but when I get to heaven, I'll have forgiven perfectly everyone who has harmed me in any way and others will have forgiven me too for what I did to them if they are in heaven.

So if the murderer, rapist, child molester, and overall just nasty person repents and dies in God's grace and under the sign of the cross, he or she will get to heaven although purgatory may seem like an eternity for them. And when their victims get to heaven they will embrace in love. That's perfection and only rarely experienced on this side of purgatory and heaven. But I have heard true stories of heroic forgiveness and reconciliation in the here and now. So perfection must be possible even now, but only by the grace of God. It is His work, not ours, but we must be open to God's grace to bring it about, if not here, then in purgatory!

So, I would say pray the Our Father daily and if you mean it, you will be perfectly reconciled to God and to those who harmed you. It might take not only a lifetime, but time in purgatory for it to occur, but occur it will if one is open to it!


SqueekerLamb said...

Some of the worst wounds and deepest cuts are done with words. Overt physical harm can often be easier to forgive.

In addition to what Father typed about praying the Our Father, may I add one more thing to do?
1. Accept the painful feeling that imcomplete forgiveness places in your heart and mind, instead of trying to rationalize it away or get defensive. Feel the pain.
2. Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to see and recognize the oportunities for reconciliation, or understanding, or whichever avenue God is presenting.
It WILL be uncomfortable to seize those opportunities, and probbly will feel like a scorching purging within. Yet, as gut wrenching painful as it may be, isn't it better to go through it now rather than in purgatory? Wouldn't the unwillingness to do what you need to do now also extend one's purgatory and give a second thing to be purified there?

lose the PRIDE
get the GRACE

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I will start by asking forgiveness for double posting.

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is a conscious act that is probably difficult to actually accomplish. People have enough difficulty comprehending the size of the National Debt; understanding the Holy Spirit well enough to conceive of a suitable blasphemy is beyond the ability of all but a few people I know.

Consider temporal sin as a debt. We are either able to make it right, or not. When it is not able to be made right, it must be forgiven. Why must it be forgiven? For the forgiver the effort to recoup an unrecoverable debt only adds to the loss and is essentially good money after bad. For the person seeking forgiveness it is acknowledgement that something was squandered, wasted, lost, and there is nothing that can be done to give it back. The pact of forgiveness between the two is to further acknowledge that such prodigal behaviour will be willfully avoided on the future.

If I loan money to someone who does not pay it back I can forgive the debt, but I am not obliged to loan him money again, at least under the same circumstances.

If I understand that I have precious little in this world but my time to use well, I would do well first to not waste it. Carrying the debt in my heart wastes my time and the value that time could have to others if I used it better. Yet this is a frightful decision in itself: forgiving someone can mean that I will not waste anymore time on them. If am sincere in my petition to God I am acknowledging not only my own weakness, but my place in the universe as a creature with limitations. If I, in turn, accept a sincere petition for forgiveness from a debtor I am consigning him to a position of weakness, at least insofar as that debt is concerned. It may be that person is incapable of repaying any debts and I must have the internal strength to avoid giving him more money no matter how much he begs. That can be very painful. When Bishops hear a young man sincerely request Holy Orders I can only imagine how difficult it must be to deny them. Similarly, it is painful to know I must give careful consideration to any advice I receive from clergy outside of the rituals of the Church.


Anonymous said...


As a creature far more limited than God I must be far more frugal in the use of the resources He has entrusted to me. If one conceives of God as 'He of Unlimited Resources' there is the temptation to treat His forgiveness in the same manner politicians treat taxes: He has plenty so should feel obliged to give it. While it is the lack of gratitude that is irksome, it is the waste of that resource, the presumption of entitlement, that is most damaging. The sinner, like the politician, presumes to allocate the resource to his personal project in lieu of any other.

This careless contempt almost rises to the level of perverting a gift of good to evil, but is really a petty waste of God's first gift of free will.

I do pray the Our Father daily. I have since childhood. The Litany of Humility is on my desk at work. Even so, I will err in my decisions and seek forgiveness for them. I will endevour to forgive as freely. But to be true to my forgiveness I will not waste those gifts the Lord has entrusted to me, nor let others waste them in a selfish mockery of insincere forgiveness.


SqueekerLamb said...

So, how does one deal with those who refuse to feel contrite?

any takers?

Gene said...

Why deal with them at all? If they are mule-headed it is a waste of time. Pray for them and let God (or the Devil) deal with them.

SqueekerLamb said...

pin, sounds like good advice to me.

Anonymous said...

As long as they do not mistake forgiveness for weakness, then if they will not feel contrition they should feel caution.