The Father William Most Collection
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
"Have I already gone too far in sin? Am I close to the unforgivable sin?" Some today are wondering. They have read in the Gospel that there is a sin that will never be forgiven either in this world or in the next. After the enemies of Jesus had charged that He was really casting out devils by the power of the devil, then He uttered some mysterious and frightening words, from the inaugural vision in which God appointed Isaiah as a prophet: "The eyes of this people are blind. They have eyes and see not, ears and hear not, so that they might repent and I would heal them" (Versions vary in each Synoptic)
So, is there really a sin that God will not forgive? On His part, no, there is no such a thing. But on the side of the sinner, there definitely is, and many today are getting into it. The Father has accepted the infinite price of redemption. In doing that, He has literally bound Himself to offer forgiveness and grace without limit. Further, it is not just our race as a whole that has such a claim going for it—each individual human has it. St. Paul in Galatians 2.20 wrote that the Son of God "loved me, and gave himself for me." But is that perhaps a special favor shown to Paul , a great saint? No, Vatican II, in its Constitution on the Church in them Modern World #22 assures us: "Each one of us can say with the Apostle: ‘The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ " Suffering and death in so hideous a form— He was and is willing to take it on for me, for just one soul!
But as we said, even though the Father is never unwilling to forgive, yet when we look at the human beings themselves, yes, there can be and are : they are unforgivable.
They have become hard, or blinded.
But what does that mean? Those words are metaphorical. But they contain a terrible reality. However, if we think a bit we can solve the puzzle. Let us picture a man who has never been drunk before, but tonight he goes out and hangs on a big one. The next morning, along with other things, he will have guilt feelings — there is a clash in him, of his moral beliefs with his actions. Our nature hates to have these clashes, and so something has to give, and it will. If he continues getting drunk, he gradually moves out on a spiral in which he no longer can see that drunkenness is wrong: "A guy has to have shum fun!" We called it a spiral: as it goes out it gets larger and larger and feeds on itself. All moral truths are interconnected, and so in time he will lose his ability to see other moral truths. He may even go so far as to no longer see great doctrinal truths. In 1993 when the Pope visited Denver, Dignity, the group who say black is white, published a statement: "The Pope is only the titular head of the church--we ARE the Church." Sad to say, not a few have reached that point today.
Now, when God sends a grace to us to lead us and to enable us to do something good, the first job for the grace is to cause the man to see in his mind that the thing is good. But if he is far out on the bad spiral , he will have lost the ability to see that— then grace will indeed come: but it will not get in at all. It is like the water on the duck’s back. He is blind, he is hardened.
Is there any hope at all for such a one? Not in the ordinary course of things— a grace comparable to a miracle is needed. It is only if some other person in immense or heroic generosity will sacrifice and pray for him, putting as it were, a heroic weight into the pan of the two pan scales of the order of holiness , will such heroism call for and make right a miraculous grace, one that goes beyond the normal order, then God will happily find that there is something calling for even miraculous graces, graces that can cut through resistance without destroying freedom, or can even forestall resistance. So Our Lady at Fatima begged: Pray and make sacrifices for sinners; there are many who are lost because there is no one to sacrifice greatly for them. For example; Augustine was a veteran sinner, long sunk in the sticky filth of habitual continued sin. But his Mother Monica was willing to go to heroic lengths in prayer and penance. And so Augustine today is a Saint- -without her he would now be in hell.
Those who attempt a second marriage while the first still stands and is valid may tell themselves: Let us keep the phone number of the priest handy. Then if one of us is in danger of death, we will call him.—Yet, but is there any real contrition, i.e., a real change of heart? It is all preplanned. They have continued sinning as long as they still had the strength to sin--only when life begins to fail so they cannot go on sinning, will they say: I wish I had not done it. We wonder: is there any real repentance? We may doubt it. We do not mean to tell such persons to despair—the fear of death may cause them to finally see, or the heroic prayers and penances of someone else. But it is a hellish risk to stake one’s eternity on that possibility
A more pleasant thought: there is a spiral in the good direction too. If someone really lives what the faith calls for, gives up the things of the world more and more, then his ability to see supernatural truth grows more and more. There are cases known—such as St. Joseph of Cupertino—in which a not very bright and uneducated person may understand more of the ways of God, of theology, than highly trained theologians.
To come back to that line of the Gospel: so that seeing they may not see… Did Our Lord really want to blind them? Of course not. He even wept over the hardness of Jerusalem, which He saw was going to bring such a ruin upon it.
There is another way to help to understand. St. John in his First Epistle (4.8) wrote: "God is love." He did not say that God has love, but that God IS love. That was the only correct way to write. If he has said God has love, there would be a duality - God and His love. But God is supreme unity. So He is identified with His love. And there is more: He is also identified with mercy, with goodness, with justice—there are no real distinctions in God. So mercy and justice are identified with His Being, and so, with each other! But how?
With the help of this start we can begin to understand the how. We go back to look at the bad spiral:. the man is becoming more and more blind: he has earned that, by his sinning: it is justice.. But it is also mercy: for the more a person knows and understands of God, the greater his sin, if he does sin.. At the beginning of the process, if he foresees what may happen, he can and will take on the guilt of all that he does in later in blindness. Think of a man sitting down to have a few drinks;. he comes to a point where he sees: If I take two more, I will go out of my head, and heavens knows what I may do, running wild! At the later time when he is under the influence of alcohol, he may be incapable of sinning much at the moment. But when he embarked on that course, he foresaw, at least to some extent. He then took on the frightening responsibility of running wild and killing or destroying.
Therefore, in one and the same action, God’s dealing with him is both mercy and justice at the same time. So we can begin to see how mercy and justice are identified in Him.
But in the good spiral, the man who moves far on it gains more and more light. In one sense, he has earned it, but only secondarily- for no creature by its own power can establish a claim on God. So it is mercy that he gains light. Therefore his great light is both a gift of God, and something, secondarily earned in justice. Again, one and the same act of God is both mercy and justice.