Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
May the Lord bless you,
In the Gospel of St. Mark, we see that some people think that Jesus is out of His mind and that the scribes from Jerusalem were claiming that He had a demon. However, we see that the crowd i.e., the majority of the people, were gathering to Him so thickly so that they were unable to even eat.
The Venerable Bede tells us that of these, they are blessed because they were so anxious to receive salvation that they prevented our Lord and Saviour from partaking of food. Are we as anxious? Are we spending time in prayer like this so that in human terms our Saviour does not have time to eat because of our pleading for our salvation?
St. Luke, in his gospel, relates the story of the unjust judge who gives in because the widow who would not stop pleading her case. This is how desperate we need to be for salvation. Dear reader I am not sure what your upbringing was like. In my upbringing, salvation was very much a point in time and everything after that was just spiritual. It was needful but was not salvific. However, as we have learned to look at the teachings of the Holy Church, we have come to realise that as we grow in Christ, we are being saved from more and more of the passions as we are becoming partakers of the divine nature. Be earnest, therefore, continually seeking Christ to grant you more salvation from sin.
The Venerable Bede also makes a distinction between the inability to understand and purposely slandering the Saviour. Those who said Christ was beside Himself or today we might say crazy are doing so from slowness of intellect. They are seeing Christ minister and teach, and they are unsure of what to do with it, so they say He is crazy.
However, those who have come down from Jerusalem maliciously say that He has a demon. They purposely attribute His work to an unclean spirit. They were unable to deny the work that He had done through His ministry, so they attribute it to the work of the evil one.
St. Augustin draws a contrast between the unclean spirit that is divided against itself and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit rather than being divided against himself takes us who are or were divided against one another and unites us together by dwelling in us so that we might be of one heart and one soul just like the believers in Acts. If you are finding that you are divided from a friend or sibling, take some time to pray for both of you to be filled and united in the Holy Spirit.
The strong man described here is the evil one. St. Irenaeus of Lyons explains,
The adversary enticed humanity to transgress our maker’s law, and thereby got us into his clutches. Yet his power consisted only in tempting the human will toward trespass and apostasy. With these chains he bound up the human will. This is why in the economy of salvation it was necessary that he be bound with the same chains by which he had bound humanity. It would be through a man that humanity would be set free to return to the Lord, leaving the adversary in those bonds by which he himself had been fettered, that is, sin. For when Satan is bound, man is set free; since “none can enter a strong man’s house and spoil his goods, unless he first bind the strong man himself.” It is in this way that he became exposed as the opposer of the Word who made all things, and subdued by his command. The new man showed him to be a fugitive from the law, and an apostate from God. He then was securely bound as a fugitive, and his goods hauled away. These goods are those who had been in bondage, whom he had unjustly used for his own purposes. So it was a just means by which he was led captive, who had led humanity into captivity unjustly. In this way humanity was rescued from the clutches of its possessor by the tender mercy of God the Father, who had compassion on his own handiwork, and gave to it salvation, restoring it by means of the Word, Christ, in order that humanity might learn from this actual event that they receive incorruptibility not of themselves, but by the free gift of God.1
St. Augustin tells us that this binding of the strongman is described in the revelation to St. John in which he saw,
“an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” The angel checked and repressed his power to seduce and possess those destined to be set free.2
Christ conquers the devil, the strong man, by righteousness and by power. By righteousness because He who had no sin was slain unjustly by the devil. By power because having died, he lived again never afterwards to die. The devil was conquered through the resurrection but there is something of even greater and of more profound comprehension that is happening. St. Augustin tells us,
the devil was conquered precisely when he was thought to be conquering, namely, when Christ was crucified. For at that moment the blood of him who had no sin at all, was shed for the remission of our sins. The devil deservedly held those whom he had bound by sin to the condition of death. So it happened that One who was guilty of no sin freed them justly from this condemnation. The strong man was conquered by this paradoxical justice and bound by this chain, that his vessels might be taken away. Those vessels which had been vessels of wrath were turned into vessels of mercy.3
The strong man has been conquered and Christ has united his goods to the Church. He has now appointed the Apostles and their successors to guard them and to convert the people to the way of life. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Now the seriousness of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is because the Holy Spirit is fully equal with God the Father and God the Son. This equality we proclaim in the Nicene Creed by not including the filioque.
We believer in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord and Giver of Life;
Who proceeds from the Father;
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;
St. Gregory the Theologian explains it this way,
He is the subject, not the object, of hallowing, apportioning, participating, filling, sustaining. We share in him; he shares in nothing. He is our inheritance, he is glorified, counted together with Father and Son. He is a dire warning to us, the “finger of God.” The Spirit is, like God, a “fire.” This means that the Holy Spirit is of the same essential nature as the Father. The Spirit is the very One who created us and creates us anew through baptism and resurrection. The Spirit knows all things, teaches all things, moves where and when and as strongly as he wills. He leads, speaks, sends, and separates those who are vexed and tempted. He reveals, illumines, gives life, or better said, he is himself light and life. He makes us his temple, he sanctifies, he makes us complete. He both goes before baptism and follows after it. All that the Godhead actively performs, the Spirit performs4
The sin in this passage is attributing the work of God to an unclean Spirit. This is a serious sin. However, the reading that it can never be forgiven is not supported by the tradition of the Church. St. Augustin and the Venerable Bede are clear on this. While it is true that those who are purposely sinning as the scribes in this passage have no forgiveness for this sin while they persist in their obstinance. It is not true that if we are guilty of this sin and come in humility and repentance and show that our manner of life has changed, we will not be forgiven. God will forgive even this.
In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit