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How does one blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?

Q. Recently I heard read at Mass these words from St. Mark’s Gospel: "Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." This puzzled me. How does one blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? (Dublin, Ohio)

 

A. The quote you reference is from Mark 3:28-29. On the surface, it would seem to clash with what we grew up learning: that God can forgive anything if we’re sorry. And so, not surprisingly, this passage has sparked considerable commentary.

 

The first thing I should say is that God, indeed, can forgive anything; that’s the very reason Jesus came. Early in the Gospel, the angel of the Lord tells Joseph in a dream: "You are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21).

 

What then does the Marcan passage mean? It means that the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is one who refuses to accept God’s forgiveness.

 

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: "There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss" (No. 1864).

 

As St. John Paul II explained in his 1986 encyclical letter "Dominum et Vivificantem": " ‘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" (No. 46).

 

So "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" — I believe and would hope — is rather unusual; it would mean rejecting God’s offer of forgiveness all the way to the end of one’s life.

Questions may be sent to Fr. Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019