I have reflected at length about why these particular sins are unforgiveable, and asking the Holy Spirit's guidance in clarification of the Scripture, "Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven." Several things have come to mind regarding each one of the 6 sins: despair, presumption, impenitence, obstinacy, resisting truth, and envy of another's spiritual welfare.
Let's take each one at a time and really analyze what it is, what it means, and how it can seal our fate for eternity.
When a person is in real despair, he is totally convinced of his unworthiness and has no hope whatsoever. Every effort to change his emotions or situation ceases. The person becomes devoid of the feelings of love--love from others, love from self, and love from God. Please do not confuse "depression" with despair. There is a major difference: you have a loss of LOVE with despair that is not associated with depression. Depression can be clinical--due to emotional stresses or physical imbalances. Despair is not a sadness but rather an intense void, where you are convinced that God has abandoned you, that He doesn't love you anymore and no one does, that even you believe that you have no worth whatsoever as a child of God.
The Random House College Dictionary defines despair as: "loss of hope; hopelessness; to lose, give up, or be without hope". They also define depression as: "dejection; sadness; gloom; downcast; lowered spirits; lower in force, vigor or activity".
I personally think that people use words such as "sad" or "depressed" or "despairing" interchangeably, and they should not be. While the actual definitions of the words have not changed, their connotations have over time. How many times have you heard yourself or others say that they are giving up? Or that God's forgotten them? Or that there's no hope? Usually, we are just venting our frustrations, and most of us pull ourselves out of these feelings with or without help from others or God. And I don't believe that this is the type of DESPAIR that is the unforgiveable sin against the Holy Spirit.
Above all else, God wants us to come to Him and ask for forgiveness, accept His forgiveness, and make every effort to not sin again. When a person is in real despair, they do not go to God for forgiveness. They do not believe that God will forgive them. If they died in a state of true despair, God would want to forgive them if they would just ask Him for it. But they won't, and that is what condemns them. Even if He would forgive the person in true despair without the person asking for His mercy, he would reject His forgiveness because he believes himself too unworthy. This would condemn him. If God would open His pearly gates to welcome this true despairer, he would walk away and reject Paradise.
All of us at some time or another gets frustrated and loses hope in different circumstances. This is a human weakness, and we usually get through it, past it, and return to living our lives. People in despair remain there without hope, rejecting any love, reward, forgiveness, and self-worth.
One last note: Desperation is also not true despair.
This is probably the most confusing to most of us as Catholics because it involves the "once saved, always saved" belief of fundamentalist Christians. We can have friends who claim to be saved, but they go about their business doing as they please and assume that they will be forgiven by God without asking for His mercy and or mending their sinful ways. They assume that they have a seat in heaven regardless of their actions. Most of the friends I have here (I'm deep in the Bible Belt) are fundamentalist Christians, and what I understand about that is if a person is truly "saved," he receives Jesus Christ into his heart and accepts Him as his personal Lord and Saviour--AND a change of heart is supposed to take place and their lives are changed forever to the extent that they attempt to sin no more against God.
This is a foreign concept--in a way-- to Catholics, but if you really think about our faith, we believe also that Jesus Christ is Our Lord and Saviour--for each of us personally and collectively; we believe that we are changed by His grace through the Sacraments; we believe that we must back up our proclaimed faith not by mere words, but also by our actions on a daily basis. We just don't use the term "saved" because it presupposes our destinies.
Assuming will get you into big trouble. If you presume or assume, you may become lax in your actions. Be careful of this. We are all human beings, and as such, are subject to weakness. There were only 2 people on this earth who were perfect: Jesus Christ Himself, as God, unbegotten, not made; and the Blessed Mother Mary, conceived without sin, a creature, created as a child of God by God. The rest of us have to continue to try hard to keep our weaknesses from overtaking us. Be alert. Do not presume.
Presumption goes further than just assuming that you are going to heaven because one day you proclaimed that you are "saved." It also means that you presume God's forgiveness without bothering to ask Him for it. We HAVE TO approach Him. We have to be contrite and have true remorse for our sins. We have to attempt to live by His Commandments and sin no more. That is one reason why it is a good idea to do a nightly examination of conscience and make a sincere act of contrition before you go to sleep. You never know what will happen the next day. I'm not saying that any venial sin committed after your last confession or act of contrition before you die is not forgiven. God knows your heart and your intentions. He knows the kind of life you've led. He also knows how often you go to Him for forgiveness, either in the confessional or privately. He knows that if you die before you seek His forgiveness, that you would have come to Him if given more time. So, don't get paranoid about this, but just remember that you must regularly come to Him with a contrite heart and the resolution to do better. And then, you must believe He forgives you and accept His forgiveness.
For you to be condemned by the sin of presumption, you never bother to seek the Lord's forgiveness, as if it is not necessary.
Impenitence basically means you aren't sorry for what you've done wrong. How many times have you heard someone say that they weren't sorry for doing something to another person, that they deserved it? Or if they had a chance, they'd do it again? What about those who habitually commit the same sin over and over, knowing it's wrong, but they're unwilling to stop their behavior?
I once asked my pastor if there were ever any sins he heard in the confessional that he wouldn't forgive, and he told me that there was only one: if a person comes to confession regularly (like weekly) and he remembers that a specific sin is always confessed each time by this person, it becomes obvious to the priest that the person is not truly sorry for this sin, nor does he intend to avoid committing it again. My pastor explained that he's only had to do this very few times in his long years as a priest, but he has told the "penitent" that this one sin would not be forgiven until he changed his ways.
We believe as Catholics that in order to enter heaven, we must be pure, without a stain of sin on our souls. Our hearts must also be pure--intent is everything. Impenitence is an offspring of pride. If we become so full of ourselves that we elevate our status so high we don't need to ask God for forgiveness, justifying everything we do wrong or even delighting in it, then we have almost set ourselves up as His equals. It comes dangerously close to breaking the first Commandment. Be careful that you do not fall into this trap.
Make a good examination of conscience, thinking over not only your actions, but how you feel about them. If you realize that you have feelings of delight at another's misfortune because of something you did or said, try to change your heart and ask for God's forgiveness. The first step in avoiding this sin is to become AWARE. And remember that our justifications to ourselves about our behavior sets us up personally as judge and jury before God, making Him lesser than ourselves.
Obstinacy is very close kin to impenitence. It also places yourself above God in the role of judge. It breaks the first commandment. When you are obstinant, you don't care if your actions or words hurt God or anyone else, you just continue with your own bad behavior. It is being stubborn. You adhere to your own justified ideas about right and wrong, disregarding God's commandments and His justice. You become unyielding. If you are in a state of obstinacy and you died, you would probably argue with God that He is wrong and you are right!
Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with another person who just won't listen to what you have to say, regardless of the facts you present? Are they determined to hold on to their opinion, no matter how false or ridiculous it is? Can they actually justify their opinion, twisting things around so it sounds like they are right? This is the devil's work. Nothing delights Satan more than a person who changes the rules for his own benefit, defying God, and throwing it in His face!
Or, do you have the opinion that "I'll believe it when I see it," and expect that until there's scientific proof of something, you HAVE to be right? Where's the faith here? Why do we feel like we deserve proof for everything? Why do we feel we must have an explanation for everything? Just having these thoughts about science or math or earthly things isn't always bad--that's not what I'm saying. But having these opinions about faith, spiritual matters, and God is dangerous to our souls.
Remember that your opinion is only that--an OPINION. Opinions do not change FACTS. If you decided one day that rain was dry and you really believed that, it wouldn't change the texture of rain, would it? Rain is always going to be wet. Facts are facts, and opinions are opinions. In the same way, God's laws are God's laws, and nothing we can decide about them will change them. Keeping our heads in the sand and thinking that our circumstances are somehow different, so we can continue to behave as we please is just being blind to the truth. It isn't a smart thing to do, and it won't get us into heaven.
Make a good examination of conscience, reflecting on our actions. Think about what we've been taught by the Church and the Bible regarding right and wrong. Do you justify your actions even though you know it breaks one of God's Commandments? Are you determined to continue with that behavior? Do you not care that it hurts God? Change your thinking; change your heart; change your life; and, seek His forgiveness.
This resistance to the Truth follows obstinacy around! Have you heard the Word of God and rejected it because it suited your purposes to do so? Do you pick which of His laws you will keep and which you will break? Do you do it intentionally?
Do you close your heart off so the Holy Spirit can't work in you? Do you put up walls around yourself and not let God into your life and heart? Are you more content to stay uninformed so you have an excuse for your behavior? Do you avoid religious conversation, Church services, or learning about your faith and the laws of God as set forth in the Bible?
Resisting truth is the same thing as resisting God Himself. How could you ever expect to get any reward in the afterlife if you avoid or resist Him? God must be in our hearts, our minds, and our souls for us to enter Paradise. A lack of God in us will surely get us a one way ticket to hell.
We all know about missionaries and their work. We have all heard evangelists spreading God's Word. Do we disregard all this and decide for ourselves that God doesn't even exist, like atheists do? Is life easier without having more rules to live by? After all, there are already so many civil laws that inhibit our freedoms, why would we go out of our way to add more? Staying in the dark will be rewarded with darkness.
ENVY OF ANOTHER'S SPIRITUAL WELFARE
Envy is one of the 7 deadly sins. Most of us can name off at least 6 out of the 7, if not all 7. They are famous for a good reason. Almost all sin spring from these cardinal sins.
What I do not understand is: why would someone be jealous of another person's goodness? Why would we ever be envious of Mother Teresa, for example? Is it so we could become famous? Or admired? Have followers who dote on our every word?
Catholics do venerate the lives of the saints because they are great role models for our own lives. Many saints have been great sinners and turned their lives around toward God. Many saints have had physical or emotional sufferings that they bore with patience and love for God. These people give us hope for our own lives. The sin of envy of another's spiritual welfare involves much more than mere admiration of another good person. It means that you wish that it were YOU who led that life and had that goodness in YOU, and the other person did not! Or it means that you are so envious that you wish they didn't have that goodness about them, whether you did or not!
Envy involves the taking away from another individual whatever belongs to them. It isn't just the desire to emulate them. Most of us won't have this sin to account for before God. Most of us are genuinely happy for the other person who lives a saintly life and only hope that we can attain some small part of that goodness, too.
Jesus told us that the 2nd greatest Commandment was to love one another as yourself. He didn't say "instead of yourself" or "only yourself." Being so envious of another's spiritual state that we wish they didn't have it, is like you condemning them to hell. It is a desire to steal from another for your own gain.
Have you ever heard of murderers in the news or even in the movies or books who comment, "If I can't have you, no one will"? What if we just wished the other person wasn't saintly, regardless of whether we could get that good for ourselves?
As I said before, I don't think this is a very common sin against the Holy Spirit. I don't think that just calling someone a "goody goody" when we were kids is what God defines as a sin that won't be forgiven. Of course, it is cruel, but it isn't the same thing. This sin is another offspring of the deadly sin of pride. What it really boils down to is our own inflated sense of self, that somehow we are more deserving than another. After all, if we would all change our hearts and our actions and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, we could attain the same saintly spiritual state as any person in heaven. It truly is up to us to follow God's Will. There is no way to get it easily, and it can't be robbed from another person. We condemn ourselves by our own lack of action to change our ways, and our desire to harm another spiritually.
The 6 sins against the Holy Spirit have one thing in common: We judge ourselves, taking the supreme authority from God. When we commit one of these grievous sins, we refuse God's love and forgiveness. These sins are all made by our own choosing to commit them. They are all intentional.
Pride, Avarice, Sloth, and Envy all contribute to them. I suggest you take each one of the 7 deadly sins and the 10 Commandments, and use them to do your examination of conscience before confession or before making your acts of contrition, asking God for His mercy and forgiveness, and His love to enter our hearts and lives.
Sins Against the Holy Spirit
by John Chrysostomos
Many things have ye spoken against me. These things I forgive you on your repentance, and exact no penalty of you; but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven, no, not to those who repent. And how can this be right? For even this was forgiven upon repentance. Many at least of those who said these words believed afterward, and all was forgiven them.
Sins Against the Holy Spirit
by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, OP
The sins against the Holy Ghost are commonly said to be six in number: despair, presumption, impenitence, obstinacy, resisting truth, and envy of another's spiritual welfare. Some of these are less difficult of pardon than others. Final impenitence is absolutely unpardonable. Those, too, who from deliberate malice refuse to recognize the work of God, as the Pharisees did when they saw the miracles of Our Lord and attributed them to Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils are unpardonable.
Questions and Answers on the Holy Spirit
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