Clergy Notes — Pentecost 3, June 9, 2024

“Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mk 3:29). When I first read this passage, the exception to the otherwise boundless mercy of God has perplexed me. Why is there is an exception? And why is that exception the Holy Spirit, and not all three Persons of the Holy Trinity?

To approach an answer to these questions, we need to have an understanding of what is the activity of the Holy Spirit. It’s a fitting time to reflect on this, given that we’ve recently embarked on twenty-seven weeks of Ordinary Time, the reference point of which is that it is the Season After Pentecost – which is itself a festival of the Holy Spirit.

In the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of St. John, Jesus describes the Third Person of the Trinity as “the Spirit of truth,” who “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” In common with other Jews of his time, Jesus would have understood the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) as that aspect of God which has dynamic force over creatures, giving them life and being. The Hebrew word, ruach, like the Greek word, pneûma, means both “spirit” and “breath. To be “inspired,” is literally to be filled with (divine) breath.

For Jesus, access to the truth is access to eternal life, since he is the Word of Life. It is significant that Pilate asks Jesus during his interrogation, “What is truth?” even as Truth stands before him. Jesus, just as significantly, remains silent.

Thus it is for Jesus that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the eternal sin of lying about the truth, wilfully. Conscious and hardened resistance to the truth leads us away from humility and repentance, and without repentance, there can be no forgiveness. That is why the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit cannot be forgiven since one who does not acknowledge their sin does not seek to have it forgiven.

The reason for this Season After Pentecost is a summer quest for the truth. The green of this liturgical season reminds us that this time in the Church Year reflects inwardly the growth and vibrance we see around us outwardly. For many of our forebears, these six months between Pentecost and Advent would have been a time of hard work: tilling the soil, planting and tending new crops, then – finally – harvest, storage, and preservation.

By analogy, our lives in faith are dedicated at this time to the careful husbandry of our own growth as Christian disciples; led by the Holy Spirit, who – as Jesus promises will teach us everything, and remind us of all he has said to us.

Fr Neil Fernyhough

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