Six sins that thwart God’s mercy

  • June 20, 2024

A recent Sunday Gospel was about the puzzling “sin against the Holy Spirit.” Puzzling and terrifying because Jesus is clear about its consequence: this sin “will not be forgiven in this life or the next.” (Mark 3:20-25) How can an all-loving God, full of mercy, who will forgive our worse offences, also tell us there is such a thing as an unforgivable sin? Most of all, how can I make sure I never commit this sin?

 As Jesus performed His public ministry and the crowds clamored for His teaching and healings, His relatives thought He was “out of his mind.” The scribes declared: “He is possessed” and “by the prince of demons he drives out demons.”  Whoa. They were basically calling God the devil. 

Perhaps Jesus’ relatives could be excused due to their blinded familiarity, but the scribes were part of the religious leadership and should have had the necessary discernment to know that this miracle man was not evil but good. Why didn’t they? Perhaps they actually did understand that Jesus was good but saw Him as a threat to their power. Perhaps they were engaging in the worst kind of calumny and slander to deter people from following this young rabbi. Whatever the case, don’t take the job if you’re not equipped. Don’t take the spiritual job if you’re not God-equipped and God-sent, because you will be held accountable in a big way.

Jesus points out the illogic of Satan casting out Satan, and then goes on to warn that “all sins and blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” On the simplistic face of it, it sounds like you can blaspheme the Father and the Son, but not the Holy Spirit. But is that what Jesus meant? 

One way to think about the Holy Spirit is as God’s action in the world. If we truly know God, we will recognize His action in the world. Jesus did miracles to back up His claims and His doctrine. In Matthew 12:28, Jesus says: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, the kingdom of God is upon you.” The matter is black and white, it’s either this or that. We must pray mightily for the precious gift of discernment so that we don’t wind up like the scribes. “Woe unto them who calls good evil and evil good, that put darkness for light and light for darkness.” (Isaiah 5:20) 

The Catholic Church has traditionally named six sins against the Holy Spirit. This list can help us recognize that it is wewho are thwarting God’s mercy:

Despair—We don’t believe in God’s mercy, don’t repent and don’t ask for it. On the other hand, God understands when people are deeply depressed, traumatized, mentally ill, etc. The sin of despair is something we do with full cognition and will. 

Presumption—We sin with impunity because we believe God will simply wipe away all our sins, and we believe we’re “basically a good person.” 

Resisting the Known Truth—We know God, the Bible, the Catholic Church are true, but we refuse to acknowledge it, we refuse to obey God, we think we know better, we prefer our own will to God’s will, we delay in changing our life, etc. 

Obstinacy in Sinning—We don’t really care that sin hurts us and others, is physically and spiritually deadly, and offends our loving God. We never go to Confession. 

Final Impenitence—Not even advanced age, illness or imminent death melts our hardened heart. At the moment of death--after which our choice will be finalized--Jesus, the Blessed Mother and our guardian angel make every attempt to save our soul, but it’s still up to us. 

Envy of Others’ Gifts—This last sin may seem out of character with the other five, but it’s also about rejecting God the Creator, how He made us, how He gave us gifts. Envious people do great harm in the world and block much good from going ahead. “Through the devil’s envy, death entered the world.” (Wisdom 2:24)

God is full of mercy, but He can’t force us to receive it.

Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns  #medianuns

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