"Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven."
I had never considered this passage before-truthfully, I didn’t know what to make of it-and so I took myself out of my office and went to the office next door to consult with the nearest Passionist. "Why," I wondered, "was it forgivable to speak against Jesus but not the Holy Spirit?"
One of the theological points of view, I learned, is that when one turns away from the Holy Spirit then one willfully rejects God’s mercy and all those spiritual gifts from God that are life-giving and transformative of our very being. God has no entrance into our hearts. And so we become dead inside. And, worse than that, it is we ourselves who have chosen this terrible path of being dead rather than alive.
The lure of "feeling nothing" and opting to check out of life, or resigning oneself to being a hardened vessel filled with too much grief, too much anger, and too great a sense of powerlessness, is tempting at times. Some days I get fed up with someone’s behavior, feel wounded by a loss, or I turn on the news and think, "That’s it; I’ve had it." I can feel my heart steeling itself against this person or that, this group or that, and there might even be a momentary sense of relief. "Yes," I think, "maybe it’s better just not to care or write them off."
But that is a rejection of life and the possibility of grace. Here is one of the hardest things about being human, I think. To embrace life is to embrace messiness and suffering and frustration and disappointment. It is to accept that perfection will never be ours, only God’s. But the blessing is that in walking through what may feel like a pain that will never end, if we remain open to the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, then we are helping to create the place within us where transformation can occur, where joy can be reborn, and where hope can become real.
Drawing upon the words of today’s first reading, from Paul to the Ephesians: May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…
Nancy Nickel is director of communications at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago.