Against the Spirit

This weeks Gospel reading describes the resistance Jesus faced from all sides, and many followers of Jesus can relate. In doing God’s will, they have been kicked out of the church and even silenced by their own families.

In Mark 3:20-35, Jesus is being pressed by crowds for casting out demons and performing miracles. His family tries to restrain him and take him away, maybe out of fear for his own well being. The teachers of the law come next shouting that Jesus is possessed by Satan himself.

Jesus has to defend himself against everyone. His final assertion is a bold one, if they blaspheme the Holy Spirit of God, the consequences will endure forever.

The dynamic is fascinating, and familiar. When prophetic voices of renewal come to  criticize organized religion, they are quickly squelched. The system responds to the foreign intruder to protect the organism. Even family members, in an effort to protect the prophet, will reinforce the system’s reaction and try to silence their own.

This is fresh on my mind this week with the discovery of 215 unmarked graves discovered at the site of a former residential school in Canada run by the Catholic Church. The schools were financed by the state and run by the church, in an effort to forcibly assimilate indigenous children to Canadian society and the Christian faith.

Survivors of the residential school system attest to being isolated, hungry, cold, frequently sick, beaten, and afraid. This is who Jesus said he came for. Yet, Christians are the very perpetrators of such pain and suffering.

This was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—sin against the very Spirit of Holy God, and its consequences are now enduring and cannot be undone. 

Unfortunately this is far from a lone experience of trauma and violence in Christian Instituions, churches, colleges, schools, and even families, who often react by trying to silence the prophetic and keep them from revealing truth and requiring repentance.

Sometimes, to protect the system, they even scapegoat the victim.

Some escape, some defy, some fight back, and some succeed at leading others to repentance and renewal. 

I’ve seen many versions… people leave churches, leave the faith, or are estranged from family members for defying the status quo, the norms, the code of honour. By God’s grace, some find what indigenous survivors call the “healing path.” The scars remain, but they are able to move ahead. 

In the midst of this, Jesus turns, looking at those sitting closely around him, and says, This is my mother, these are my brothers and sisters. Whoever does God’s will is my family, and my People.”

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