Monday of Week 3 in Ordinary Time
…but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness
Football is the purest expression of gladiatorial sport in our age. Brute force is pit against battle wits to move a football down to the opponent’s end zone. It is violent. It is unforgiving. Injury is common. Men weighing more than 200lbs, towering more than 6ft defend their ground viciously. Despite the violence, football is a beautiful sport that rewards hard work, athleticism, intelligence, dedication, determination and the will to prevail. All the human drama that makes for inspired stories can be found on a football field; the good, the bad, the valiant, the fearful, the selfish, the selfless. A few years ago, I got to witness two terrific championship games between the Broncos-Patriots, and the Seahawks-49ers. Yet you wouldn’t know it because all America talked about that week was Seahawk Richard Sherman and what happened in their last play against the 49ers.
Gifted athletes are passionate individuals. It comes with the territory. But Richard Sherman is no thug. He’s not even the trash-talking villain the media painted him out to be. He’s just an incredibly talented athlete who got caught up in the moment, said some things he probably didn’t mean and couldn’t back down from the place he talked himself up to. He subsequently felt he had something to defend. The hype, the heat and the media’s histrionics made it no longer a conversation about football, but one of pride and race. That day, our beautiful sport took a less than beautiful turn.
Strong opinions are dangerous. Strong opinions expressed too strongly push us to a place we find impossible to back down from. Caught up in the moment, we stake more and more on being right – our reputations are suddenly up for debate. In today’s Scripture reading, the Jewish scribes viciously ‘defend their end zone’ with the collective weight of their knowledge and their position as religious elders of their time. Much is at stake here. Their whole self-worth is tied up in being right. In the heat of an argument, with tempers flaring, it is entirely possible that perhaps they weren’t thinking straight and like the Richard Shermans of this world, let their pride do the talking for them. They talked themselves to a place they couldn’t back down from, a place where they undermined themselves and inadvertently, blasphemed against the work of the Holy Spirit. Did they knowingly do it? Maybe, but that’s what happens when reason takes flight to pride and passion. We get careless and say things we regret.
I’ve often wondered about the Unforgivable Sin. What if I’ve committed it out of carelessness? We’ve all been in heated arguments before. “The tongue… is in itself a whole world of evil. It infects the whole being and sets fire to our world with the very fire of hell… nobody can control the tongue. It is an untiring whip, full of deadly poison. We use it to bless God, our Father, and also to curse those made in God’s likeness.” (James 3: 6-9). Have I, like the Jewish scribes, undermined the Spirit’s work unwittingly, when in a moment of anger and carelessness, I criticized a brother in Christ? For we all carry the Holy Spirit within us, the Spirit which inspires us to do His deeds. When I judge someone, am I also judging the Holy Spirit and in so doing, committing the Unpardonable Sin? Food for thought as we go about this week.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the strength to restrain ourselves, when tempers flare and arguments become too heated, lest we say something we regret.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who guides each of our actions. We pray for the wisdom to always be able to listen and practise restraint, despite the noise of our own passions.
Sharon, a truly inspired reflection. Thank you.