It’s back – the unforgivable sin, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, tucked into the readings for the commemoration of Bernard Mizeki, catechist and martyr.
This time, we read Luke’s contextualization of the epigram. It is interesting in its little details. The scene opens with people trampling one another to get close to Jesus. Jesus gathers his disciples in a huddle before turning to the crowd. He tells them not to be afraid – it must be a fearful sight, the thousands of people stampeding, trampling, crushing towards them. They are dangerous; but God knows the sparrows; God knows the hairs on each disciple’s head. God will be with them.
Then Jesus exhorts them to speak up for the Son of Man, for the message of the kingdom, for what they know to be true. They will face trials, he suggests, but the Holy Spirit will help them, with give them the true words, will teach them. All they need to do is trust.
In this context, the blasphemy might refer to the people who oppose the Holy Spirit speaking in and through Jesus and his disciples. It is a statement that God is on the side of the people gathered around Jesus; that God’s Holy Spirit is with them and will not abandon them.
I said previously that the idea that God will reserve one particular trespass for eternal condemnation flies in the face of everything else that the gospel tells us; and here, too, the effect of the epigrammatic statement is rhetorical. It is aimed not at condemning anyone to whom Jesus is speaking, but at strengthening the faithful. It is saying, “Those who oppose me, who oppose you because of me, can never prevail.” It is not an exhortation to fear the Holy Spirit, but to trust in her wisdom.
Bernard Mizeki trusted, and believed Jesus’ reassurance that those who would kill his body would not get the final word on his life. He believed that God watches over all of God’s children, and will send the Holy Spirit to comfort and uphold all those who are in trouble because they witness to Jesus’ words.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.”
God will not turn away from us. Jesus’ challenge is for us to continue to turn toward God.