Are you ‘IN’ or are you ‘Out’?

6.10.18. Sun.  wk  10 – O.T. – B
Genesis   3:  9 – 15
2nd Corinthians  4  13 – 5:1
Gospel  of  Mark  3:  20 – 35

Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                      Are you ‘IN’ or are you ‘Out’?

Are you ‘IN’ or are you ‘Out’?  This is what †Jesus is asking the crowds who are gathered with Him.  Are you ‘with me’ or are you ‘against me’?  Is my Mission  – your mission – or is my Mission not your mission?  †Jesus was in a home with His disciples and others and we can imagine – those others included –the sick and sinners.  He was teaching and they were listening intently.  They were on the ‘inside’ with Jesus, literally, they were inside the house and spiritually, they also were with Him.  They were ‘one’ with what He said, so they were on the ‘inside’.

Some of His relatives were on the ‘outside’ of the house; they wanted to drag Him out.   Mark tells us: “When His relatives heard of this, they set out to seize Him for they said: ‘He’s out of His mind’”. (Mark 3:21)  His relatives were not part of His Mission.  How often have we said to the Lord in prayer: “Jesus, what you’re asking of me is crazy, it’s insane, I can’t do that”.  Are we any different from those relatives of Jesus?  We’re not part of His Mission if that’s our attitude; we’re not ‘one’ with Him.

†Jesus had walked away from the security and safety of a quiet, respectable life in Nazareth.   His family wanted Him to return to carpentry and stop getting Himself in trouble with the religious authorities.  Just come home and be a nice carpenter.  They wanted to take †Jesus away from His Mission; they were clearly on the ‘outside’.  When His family was there at the house – asking for Him, †Jesus replied: “Here is my mother and my brothers – for whoever does the will of God – is my brother, and sister and mother”. (Mark 3:35)

In a homily he gave in Fiji in 1986, St. John Paul II taught: “These words of †Jesus in response to His mother are meant to explain that our relationship to Him is a spiritual one, not dependent on family ties.  What matters for us is to do the Father’s Will”. (Homily, Suva, Fiji, 21 November 1986)  Are we with the Lord or not – are we an ‘insider’ or an ‘outsider’?  If we are an ‘insider’ – we’re ‘one’ – we’re united in mind and spirit with Jesus.  †Jesus taught: “If the Kingdom of God is divided against itself, it cannot stand”. (Mark 3:24)  And †Jesus speaks of a specific sin that is very divisive – that will keep us on the outside of the Kingdom – looking in for all eternity.  †Jesus said: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness”. (Mark 3:29) This must be a pretty serious sin, because †Jesus forgives everything.  “This one”, He says: “Can’t be forgiven”.  What could it be?  Let me offer you one possibility of what this sin is.

First of all – evil is not an impersonal force; evil doesn’t just happen, it has a name and it has a face, and it seeks to master hearts and souls.  Evil is a real force that works against the Holy Spirit.  You often hear me talk about the ‘counter spirit’, that’s evil, that’s Satan.  The counter spirit is that spirit that goes against the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of “love and joy and peace and patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. (Gal.5:22f)  Those are the gifts of the Holy Spirit – but evil tries to move us away for those gifts.  What is the face of this sin that †Jesus speaks of?  Well, it could be this face (and Fr. Mike points to himself).  It could be anyone of your faces – that †Jesus speaks of.  In fact, in truth, it probably is many of our faces.  Many of us have committed this sin against the Holy Spirit – blasphemed against the Holy Spirit; more on that in a moment (that’s called a teaser).

The sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is more than just denying God’s existence, because there could be people that are strong Catholics who commit this sin.  I believe this sin is to “deny my personal goodness” or, to “deny the personal goodness of another person”.  How did I come to that? The Spirit of God lives in every one, there is no life without the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit animates life.  In the first reading we had today from the book of Genesis – before God created Adam and Eve, the Scriptures read: “He breathed on the abyss to bring it to life.  The Hebrew word “Ruah”, which is the same word for “Spirit’ (meaning the Spirit of God) is used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.  So, the Holy Spirit gives life and to deny the goodness that can exist in another person – or in myself – is to deny the presence of God’s Spirit in that person – which is a lie.  If a person is alive – God’s Spirit is in them.

This sin is manifested in many ways.  It can be manifested in self-loathing, tearing myself down, denying that God can love me because I’m this multidimensional mess.  That’s a sin against the Holy Spirit.  Maybe I failed in some way, perhaps I did not achieve my goals and so I am morbidly down on myself, and I don’t think I can do anything good.  Maybe I failed in my marriage, or I failed my family; maybe I failed in my job, or maybe I failed in my faith and I just think: ‘I must be so bad – that God probably has nothing to do with me.  I am a worthless person’.  That’s the sin against the Holy Spirit.  This attitude leads to a toxic shame that paralyzes us from being on ‘the mission with Jesus’.  It can cause us to walk away from Jesus, thinking that we are unworthy.   And this pleases the Evildoer!  This is really what he wants.

The story of Adam and Eve in the First Reading – that can be our story.  When they realized their sin, they ran and hid from God.  They were embarrassed, they were ashamed, they were nakedly weak.  To hide at a moment like that is to – ‘turn-in-on-our-self’ – and keep God off in the distance and just focus on myself.  It is a very selfish attitude – “woe is me” – “poor me” – “I’m a great sinner” – “I’m a terrible person”.  Get over it!  Stop focusing on your self, that’s what Adam and Eve did – they ran away.  If I put spiritual distance between my self and †Jesus – I will remain on the ‘outside’.

In the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul wrote: “We have the same Spirit of Faith”. (4:13)   If I trust God, I will run to Him.  Even in the midst of terrible sin, I can walk with Jesus.  I want to be with †Jesus like the sick and the sinners who gathered around Him in the house.  When we embrace †Jesus in times of disappointment, failure, rejection, and sin – and when we embrace †Jesus during those times – we will be on the ‘inside’.   Even though we have failed, we will be on the ‘inside’ with Jesus.  He is always there to forgive us.

St. Philip Neri was a parish priest in Rome in the 16th century.  He was very famous for going out into the streets of Rome.  He would go around to groups of prostitutes and others in the red light districts in Rome and he would walk up to them and say: “For the love of God, confess your sins, for, God Himself is waiting to forgive you”.  That’s what he would say.  He wants us to come to Him, He wants us to be on the ‘inside’, and not stay on the ‘outside’ because of some false pride – ‘I can never be forgiven’.  Rather, come and be with Jesus.

The sin of “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” can also express itself in another way – denying the personal goodness of another person.  That also puts us on the ‘outside’.   When we do not treat others as brothers and sisters, we deny that the Spirit of Christ, the goodness of Christ, lives in them.  The most common ways this done is through gossip, and ad hominem attacks.  We tear people down, tear down their reputation, and when we do that – we deny their ‘personal goodness’.  Under this criterion, how many of us are really guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  (As Fr. Mike raises his hand – he says: “I don’t need a show of hands, but I think there is more than just mine to be raised”.)  You see, this is a sin that is easy for all of us to fall into; and with modern technology – the viciousness of this sin is elevated.

In his apostolic exhortation on “Holiness in the Modern World”, Pope Francis wrote: “Christians too, can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forms of digital communication…  Limits can be over-stepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace and all…respect for the good name of others can be abandoned”. (Gaudium et Exsultate, 115 )   We need to rethink how we treat other people.  How we look upon those people who are different, whether they are from a different culture, a different religion, or they are just different than us.  We need to rethink all of that.  The Holy Spirit lives in them just as it does in us – and if we deny this – we will remain on the ‘outside’ of the Kingdom of God.  †Jesus makes that very clear in the Gospel.

About this sin, †Jesus said this – and listen carefully to what †Jesus says: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness”. (Mark 3:29)  If you notice – †Jesus did not say: ‘Whoever commits this sin won’t be forgiven;’ but He said: “Will never have forgiveness”.  First – God will forgive every sin, every sin.  But because a person who commits this sin is so full of hatred – pride – and blindness – it prevents them from seeing that they have done something wrong, and therefore – they won’t seek forgiveness.  If they don’t seek forgiveness – then this sin will be carried with them into the next life – but not into eternal life – it will be eternal death.   That’s what †Jesus means in the Gospel – they will not enter the Kingdom of God because they don’t think they have done anything wrong – their pride has blinded them.  They believe that what they said about others is absolutely right – so they can’t ask for forgiveness, because they don’t think they have done anything wrong.

If you are walking this earth it means that God believes that you are worthy of life and He loves you.  When you see other people walking around, it means that God thinks they are worthy of life and He loves them, as well.  We read in Psalm 100: “I trust in the Lord, my soul trusts in His word”. (vs.5)  Despite the difficulties and failures of life – always trust in your personal goodness.   God’s grace is greater than any sin we could ever commit – His grace is more powerful.  See in yourself, see in others what God sees and you will always be on the ‘inside’, sitting in the presence of Jesus.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.