Homily for June 10

Homily for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass


So there’s an unforgivable sin?  Did you hear that?
 “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”

So what’s up with that?  And what’s a blasphemy?
 Well, blasphemy is
insulting - or showing contempt or lack of reverence - for God.
And even that can forgiven
except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

 (I think we ought to be knowledgeable about this
because since Jesus says it can’t be forgiven
this is certainly a sin we don’t want to commit!)
Well, the context in Mark’s gospel here will help us understand
what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is in a confrontation here, a confrontation with the Scribes,
religious leaders of his day.
The Scribes are saying that the power at work in Jesus
is not the power of God’s Spirit but rather - it’s the power of Satan.
They are misconstruing goodness itself  - with evil.

As one scripture scholar puts it:
 “This is radical resistance to the forgiveness Jesus offers.
The unforgivable sin is outright rejection of Jesus’ healing mission
- not because God particularly hates this sin
but because this sin against the Spirit
is the absolute refusal to accept forgiveness.”  -John Kavanaugh, SJ

In other words,
what cannot be forgiven is “refusing to be forgiven”
or refusing to acknowledge that I need to be forgiven.

This sin against the Holy Spirit, then, is unforgivable
not so much because God withholds his mercy
but because it’s in my power, it’s within the scope of my will,
to refuse the mercy God offers me.

That’s why the church pairs the reading from the creation story
with this passage from Mark’s gospel.
In Genesis we have the classic story of temptation:
the temptation to prefer evil to good;
the temptation to prefer one’s own will to what God’s asks of us;
the temptation to entertain the notion
that evil has more to offer me than goodness.

What the serpent in the creation story wants us to do
is to misconstrue evil with goodness.
We all do that in some way - every time we sin
but very few reach the point of actually obstinately rejecting God’s mercy.
So I doubt that many if any of us
need to fear committing the sin that God won’t forgive.

BUT…  how about the reverse?

How about the sins of others that you and I refuse to forgive?
How many of us have been offended by others
in ways that we deem unforgivable?

It might be someone in our family, someone in the neighborhood,
someone in the parish, someone at school, someone at work,
or perhaps a political or religious leader in the news,
someone who has offended us so deeply
that we can’t find it in our hearts
to forgive either the offense or the one who offended us.

Are any of us here  today at the Lord’s Table
holding resentments and brooding over grudges
that keep us from forgiving those who have hurt us?

You know, forgiving someone doesn’t mean
we approve of or accept the wrong that person did to us.
When God forgives us, he’s not approving or accepting
the wrong we’ve done.
God’s forgiveness means he’s willing to look beyond our transgressions
and to give us another chance, a new beginning, a fresh start.

“BUT!” you say:
 “The person who hurt me hasn’t apologized  - won’t apologize!”
Well, God doesn’t wait for us to apologize and say we’re sorry
before opening his heart to us in mercy.

God’s forgiveness is there for each of us
even before we commit an offense that puts us in need of his mercy.

And if you think I’ve got that wrong, then just look at the Cross
that hovers over our prayer every week.

Two thousand years ago, long before we sinned,
long before we said we were sorry, long before we were born,
Jesus shouldered our sins,
(including the sin of our refusing to forgive one another)
and  laid down his life for us so that we might be forgiven.

His first desire is to forgive us our sins.
And his second desire is that we forgive one another as he forgives us.

Or as we say in the Lord’s Prayer:
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
 “Forgive us our sins, Lord, in the same way
that we forgive those who offend us.”
Do I really want God to forgive me
the way I forgive (or fail to forgive) others?

These are difficult scriptures to preach
and they’re even more difficult to live.
Thank God, we have the love and mercy of Jesus
as the model for how we are to understand and live these words.

We go to his table now, an altar
that reminds us of the sacrifice he offered on the altar of the Cross.
There, on the Cross, in his love for us, he held back nothing.
When his Body was broken for us and his Blood spilled for us,
he counted no sin as unforgivable.

Pray with me that we who are so freely forgiven by Jesus
will grow in freely forgiving one another
- even those offenses we have thought to be unforgivable.


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