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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 9:32–34; 12:22–42. Mark 3:22–35. Luke 11:14–32]

WHEN the days of the Feast were over, Jesus went back again into Galilee preaching, and doing good as He passed along. One day there was brought to Him a man, blind and dumb, who was possessed by the devil. Jesus cured him, and the man spoke and saw. The multitude who witnessed this miracle said: “Is not this the son of David?” For never had the like been seen in Israel.

Hearing this, the Pharisees said: “This man casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.” But Jesus answered: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. But if Satan rise up against himself, he is divided and cannot stand, but hath an end. But if I, by the Spirit of God, cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you.

“I say to you, whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.”

Then a certain woman from the crowd, hearing what Jesus said, cried out: “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the breasts that gave Thee suck.” But Jesus said: “Yea, rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.”

Then some of the Scribes and Pharisees asked Him: “Master, we would see a sign from Thee.” Jesus said to them: “An adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given to it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights, so shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth, three days and three nights. The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The Queen of the south shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because she came from the end of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”

Praise of the Mother of God. The pious woman who praised the Mother of Jesus is a figure of the Catholic Church, whose children love, honour and bless the Mother of God. Now, our Lord, in answering this holy person, said that all those are blessed who hear the word of God and keep it. But no one, either among angels or men, ever had a faith so great, or virtues so many, as the Mother of the Redeemer. Hence her throne in heaven is above the thrones of the angels and Saints, and next to that of her Divine Son. By the woman’s praise, Mary’s own prophetical words, as uttered in the Magnificat, were partially fulfilled: “Behold, all generations shall call me blessed.”

The sin against the Holy Ghost was committed by the Pharisees in this manner, that against the dictates of reason they ascribed our Lord’s miracles to the power of the devil. They calumniated Him, saying that He was in league with the devil; whereas it was they who, by their persecution of Jesus, were serving the ends of Satan. Being full of the spirit of pride and of envy, they refused to believe in our Lord’s divine power. They wilfully and obstinately resisted their reason, which, outwardly convinced by His stupendous miracles, and inwardly illuminated by the grace of the Holy Ghost, urged them to such a belief. Rather than recognize the truth that God was with our Lord, they had recourse to the most foolish evasions and lies. This wilful resistance to God’s grace hardened the Pharisees in obstinacy and impenitence, till finally it drove them to deicide. They sinned against the Holy Ghost in a fourfold manner: they envied Jesus on account of His superior wisdom and power of working miracles; they resisted that which they knew to be true; they were obstinate in their opposition to our Lord; and they were hardened into a state of final impenitence.

Impenitence, and prayers for impenitent sinners. Our Lord says of sins against the Holy Ghost that they cannot be forgiven. This means that, when a man continually resists the grace of the Holy Ghost, he falls by degrees into a condition of soul not far removed from that of the fallen angels or devils. The devils are hardened in sin, in resistance to, and hatred of God: their perverted will is incapable of conversion, so that for them redemption is impossible. Now, so long as a man obstinately resists grace, it is obvious that he cannot receive pardon, for the simple reason that he refuses to have anything to do with the grace which would move him to contrition and penance. Such an one is like a drowning man who refuses to take hold of the helping hand which is held out to him. Because, however, the human will can be converted as long as a man remains on earth, God can give a sinner such an extraordinary measure of grace, that his resistance is broken down, and he is saved. We ought, therefore, never to despair of the conversion of a sinner, however obstinate in sin he may appear to be; and the more impenitent he is, the harder we ought to pray for him. In chapter LXXXVI we shall see that, though St. Stephen said to his persecutors: “You resist the Holy Ghost!” he, nevertheless, prayed for them when he was dying.

Calumny. The Pharisees calumniated our Lord most shamefully by saying that He was in league with the prince of devils.

The weapons of unbelief. Lies and calumny were the weapons used by the unbelieving Pharisees against our Lord. They are to this day the weapons with which unbelief and heresy attack the doctrine and Church of Jesus Christ.

Hell. If there are sins which can be forgiven “neither in this world nor in the world to come”, there must be a state of everlasting punishment. Therefore it is said in Mark 3:29: “He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin.”

Purgatory. From our Lord’s words that the sins against the Holy Ghost shall be forgiven “neither in this world, nor in the world to come”, the Fathers of the Church rightly conclude that certain sins will be forgiven in the world to come. Now, there can be no forgiveness of sin in heaven, for nothing sinful can enter there at all. Neither in hell is forgiveness of sins possible, because the damned are incapable of amendment: Therefore there must be a middle state between heaven and hell. This middle state is Purgatory, where the soul is cleansed from venial sins, and where satisfaction is made for sins already forgiven.

The General Judgment. Our Lord’s words in this chapter indicate that all men of all ages will be gathered together for judgment at the Last Day. “The men of Ninive … the queen of Saba shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it!”

The Resurrection of our Lord is the miracle of miracles, and the decisive sign which vouches for the divinity of all His other miracles. It was the final test by which the unbelieving Jews were called on to believe and be saved.

Our Lord’s prophecy. By referring the Jews to “the sign of Jonas the prophet”, our Lord most distinctly foretold His Burial and Resurrection.

Keeping back sins in confession. The unfortunate man who was made dumb by the devil is a type of those sinners whose lips are closed by Satan, so that they do not make a full and sincere confession.

APPLICATION. You see by the case of the Pharisees how detestable and malicious it is to refuse to see the good in other persons, to attribute bad motives to them, and even utter calumnies against them. Have you ever done this?

Do you pray every day for the conversion of sinners? To pray for them is even more necessary than to pray for the holy souls, for these last are certain of heaven, whereas the former are in danger of everlasting damnation.








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