The familial love of God
In today’s Gospel Jesus performs his first exorcism. It is told within the context of conflict with his family. As Jesus went about doing good and proclaiming the nearness of the reign of God, some of his closest contemporaries thought he was out of his mind. Although they remained sympathetic to him, Jesus’ family was hard pressed to understand how he had chosen to live his life. He had left his home at Nazareth along with the carpenter business he had probably inherited. In their eyes, he had thrown away security and safety and chosen a path which appeared to be on a collision course with the civil and religious authorities of his day.
Others, less sympathetic to Jesus, accused him of being possessed by a demon. Still others made an even more heinous charge, one which Jesus called the unforgivable sin, viz., to attribute the power of the goodness and love at work in Jesus to Satan. Blasphemy here describes the failure to discern the Spirit’s presence in Jesus’ ministry. The trouble with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is that it is a perversion of mind which chooses to call light darkness. Persistence in this perversion makes one impervious to any movement of repentance and closes one to forgiveness. Nevertheless, the unforgivable sin need not be fatal; it does not at all preclude the possibility of repentance and forgiveness. Both as an appeal to those who attacked his goodness and in answer to the family who thought Jesus had lost his mind, Jesus explained to the crowd that those who would associate with him would not be in collusion with Satan or incurring sin. Rather, those who accepted him in truth and recognized his ministry as authentic and divine in origin, would come to know the very will of God in the words and works of Jesus. It was these, whom Jesus would henceforth regard as family and with whom he would eventually share the familial love of the God who he called Abba, Father. As members of that family, Mark’s gospel reminds us that doing the will of God will require that we sharpen our sensitivities to sin and to goodness so as to be able to truly recognize each for what it is, call it by name and live accordingly.