Reading (Hebrews 9:15, 24-28) Gospel (St. Mark 3:22-30)
When we look at today’s Gospel reading, the Pharisees are claiming that Jesus has an unclean spirit: “He casts out demons by the prince of demons,” they said. And the Lord tells us that all sins will be forgiven except the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Now there are several ways that one can understand this point of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and clearly this is one of them, that is, to say that Jesus is possessed by Satan, to believe that the spirit He was possessed of, instead of being the Holy Spirit, was an unholy spirit. We have to understand that there are really just a few possibilities. We can either say that He was possessed by a demon or we can say that He is just a normal human being like we are or we can say that He was possessed by the Holy Spirit.
Now if, in fact, He is Who He says that He is and, therefore, He is possessed by the Holy Spirit, then we need to look at what follows from it. Saint Paul speaks of that in the first reading. Because He is God, and because He is indeed led by the Holy Spirit and has given that Spirit to each one of us in Baptism, Saint Paul goes on to speak about, first, the new covenant that is founded in Christ and the fact that sins and transgressions are forgiven because it is with His own blood that He has entered into the Holy of Holies and it is there that He offers Himself to the Father for us. And so, much different from being able to cast out demons by the prince of demons, rather, He is able to cast out demons because He is God. He is able to forgive sin because it is with His own blood, with His human blood, that He has entered into eternity, into Heaven, into the Holy of Holies that is eternal in Heaven. It is there that He offers that blood for the forgiveness of our sins. That is the sacrifice of Christ, a sacrifice which is by the Will of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and carried out by the Son of God.
It has absolutely nothing to do with anything which is merely human or certainly with anything which is demonic other than to crush anything demonic and to forgive the sins that human persons commit. The only thing we can look at that is not divine is what happens within us – well, even what happens within us is divine; it is what we do that is not, but the forgiveness of what we do is divine and that is by His sacrifice. The reason why this can happen is because He is the mediator of a new covenant, as Saint Paul tells us, and we have been incorporated into that covenant. So the question is very important – Who is Jesus Christ and by whom is He possessed? – because on that question everything else is going to revolve. If we believe that He is who He says He is, that is, that He is God and that He is possessed of the Holy Spirit, then everything else that Saint Paul speaks of – everything we believe of ourselves, of our faith – is true; but if He is not who He says He is, then nothing that we believe is true. This is a critical point, and we then can understand why it is so important to be able to understand who it is who is the spirit in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who will lead us into all truth.
And the reason why any sin will be forgiven by the blood of Christ except transgressions or blasphemies against the Holy Spirit is because if we blaspheme against the Holy Spirit we would not accept His forgiveness anyway. We would not believe that He could forgive us; in fact, we would believe that He is the cause of our sin. It is critical that we understand this point and everything that follows from it because Jesus Christ is filled with the Holy Spirit, led and guided by the Holy Spirit, and possessed of the Holy Spirit. He is therefore the mediator of this new covenant, and by His blood, the blood of this covenant, not only are our sins forgiven but we become heirs with Him to eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.