The Gospel message from Luke 12:8-12 is a powerful exhortation from Jesus to his disciples telling them that the Holy Spirit will speak through them when the time is right, but warning them that the penalty for blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is steep. Fr. Michael teaches that falling into discouragement is akin to this same blasphemy against the spirit.
Gospel: Luke 12:8-12
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you,
everyone who acknowledges me before others
the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.
But whoever denies me before others
will be denied before the angels of God.
“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.
When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities,
do not worry about how or what your defense will be
or about what you are to say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”
Homily Transcript — Standing Up For What We Believe
This month we celebrate the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador who was assassinated while he was celebrating Mass for the people. Extraordinarily potent as that was, the gospel on that particular day happened to be, “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain. But if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.”
Oscar Romero was assassinated by what later was proven to be government forces because he had spoken out on behalf of Catholic social teaching; of the importance of education being available to all people. He didn’t start out challenging the government and proclaiming the social aspects of the gospel. He started out just as a humble parish priest, but he got his homilies picked up on one radio station—and then 2,3,4 and five radio stations—as a way of spreading the gospel message. This proved to be extraordinarily effective.
When he became Bishop—and then later Archbishop—his territory expanded and as he moved throughout the countryside he saw that people lacked the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, access to education and healthcare. He said, ‘This is not right. We can’t simply preach a gospel that everything will be fine in heaven, the gospel has to impact our lives here.’ The oppressive forces in the government didn’t like that. They said, ‘Archbishop, just keep your mouth shut and talk to us about heaven and the next life and how everything will be great then and how we have to suffer now.’ He said, ‘No. We’re called to share what God has given us; to witness that the gospel is going to impact every aspect of our life.’
He was warned by government soldiers: ‘If you keep this up, there will be severe consequences.’ If anything, he continued to expand his ministry through radio, through television, through direct proclamation, and so government forces burst into the chapel where he was celebrating Mass and gunned him down, literally at the altar. This month we celebrate his canonization.
What a powerful witness to what Jesus talks about in today’s gospel: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.” The church holds him up as someone who acknowledged the truth of the gospel regardless of what the consequences were. He knew what the right thing was and he would not be intimidated into silence. Our gospel goes on today and and says, “Whoever whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” What is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
My favorite interpretation of that is falling into the sin of discouragement. God can change many things, but if we fall into discouragement and we refuse to allow God’s grace to touch our lives and for whatever reason either through self-pity or self anger or anger at other people we say, ‘No, God’s grace can’t touch me here.’ and that’s the one place where God’s grace can’t touch us. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because the Holy Spirit is the consoler, is the teacher, is the comforter. A blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to say God cannot forgive me. God’s grace cannot touch me. If we say that and we believe that, then it becomes true.
What a strong contrast that is to what St. Paul prays for in his letter to the Ephesians: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to your call.” That’s St. Paul’s prayer. “May the eyes of your hearts be open, that you may know the hope to which you are called for God came into this world to give us hope, to lift us up and when Jesus was crucified and raised up he sends us the Holy Spirit to bring us that hope.”
We live in extraordinarily challenging and difficult times. There’s lots of reasons to be discouraged. We don’t have to look very far for reasons to be discouraged. All we need to do is pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio or look on the Internet or watch television and we can find all kinds of reasons to be discouraged. Sometimes the reasons for discouragement are as simple as looking in the mirror in the morning. St. Paul’s prayer echoes the prayer of Jesus, “May the eyes of our hearts be opened so that we know the hope to which we are called.” That hope that is not grounded in our government, that hope that is not grounded in business, that hope that is not even grounded in our church, the hope that is grounded in Christ Jesus our Lord and his gift of the Holy Spirit.
The saints are those who stood on that firm ground and even in the midst of terrible persecution and scandals and tremendous physical hardship, they said, ‘My hope is in the Lord.’ The promise that Jesus gave then is the promise he gives us now. “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge in heaven before the angels of God—and elsewhere in the Scripture—before my heavenly father. It doesn’t get any better than that.