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Genesis 3: 8-15; 2 Cor. 4: 13--5:1; Mark 3: 20--35

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:






Even people who have only a passing knowledge of the New Testament seem to know the startling line that appears in today’s gospel. It’s the one about the "unforgivable sin." People try to come up with possible sins that might be so horrible as to be unforgivable. "Is it the killing of a child? Is it genocide with the elimination of millions of people? Maybe in medieval times it was the burning at the stake of the St. Joan of Arc – or even, in modern times, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Maybe a person might wrong a member of their family so much that they can’t imagine God forgiving them.

Here is what Jesus said: "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." "Blasphemes?" Does that mean cursing the Holy Spirit? What would cause a person to do that? Even if they did, I thought Jesus offered forgiveness to everyone who asks. Is there something I might do or say that will never be forgiven? If so, I’m in real trouble!

Today’s text and the ruminations it stirs are a reminder that we can’t take a line or quote out of scripture and run with it. We have to hear it in the context in which it appears. Let’s look at the context then, to get some help for interpreting and applying today’s puzzling text.

Today’s passage appears early in Mark’s gospel. Right after his baptism Jesus swings into action: he calls his first disciples; crowds begin to follow him; he cures people and drives out evil spirits. In the very close-knit world of the Mediterranean, where family membership and loyalty were prime and gave a person their identity, Jesus does the unthinkable: he leaves his family and takes to the road preaching. His life changed so much that even some of his family thought he was mad; saying what we sometimes say about errant family members, "He must be mad! What has gotten into her!"

Jesus was preaching about God’s kingdom on earth and that God was acting through him. He taught, claiming no other authority but himself. So, he infuriated the religious leaders of his day. "He’s not official; he lacks the proper papers. Where did he get all this from? Who were his teachers." But he was doing good – curing people and driving out evil spirits. His opponents have to get a fix on him; they have to discredit him. "What’s all this coming from? Where will it end?"

It is easy to discount, demean and dismiss what we don’t understand, or what may challenge us to change our way of thinking and acting. One approach is to do something like those religious leaders did – to attack the person. Sure he drives out demons, they say, so he must be in league with Satan. Jesus responds and shows them how foolish they are. If he were in league with the devil, why would he be casting evil spirits out of people? "And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand."

Jesus has either brought God’s presence in a special way into the world (he calls it the kingdom of God), or he is a madman. They think he’s a madman; that he is on the side of evil. They can’t deal with this unusual, charismatic and powerful prophet, so they dodge a change of heart and cancel his message. They deny the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus and so resist the possibilities of forgiveness. If you don’t believe you can be forgiven and you don’t ask for forgiveness, you can’t receive it.

What was unforgivable was seeing what Jesus was doing and attributing it to evil and not to the Holy Spirit. There was no way out. If you see the doctor, who will perform a lifesaving operation on you, as a sadist murderer, you will never accept the surgery and the healing it could bring.

John the Baptist had predicted that one stronger than he was coming, and that he was not worthy to unfasten his sandals (1:7). Today’s story tells us that Jesus is the stronger one John had expected and that God’s kingdom has entered our lives. In sum, Jesus has power over the evil deeds and temptations that can defeat us.

Some people admire Jesus, call him a holy man, a great ethical teacher, and a model for peace. All true. But there is a danger that titles like that can also be a way of putting him off, keeping him at a distance. Admiring a great heroic person does not always involve committing ourselves to that one. It’s not just about admiration. For us, Jesus is more. He is the powerful one God has sent us, and still more – he is God’s presence in our life this day

At our Eucharist let us invite the powerful one of God into our lives to:

  • help us deal with issues at home
  • tie up the evil and negative influences that afflict us and distract our children
  • help us break the habits we haven’t been able to break on our own
  • release our instincts to do good despite our fears
  • put aside anxieties that drain us of full life

I was at a retreat day recently and the director asked us the same question God asks in Genesis, "Where are you?" There’s a homily in that question and in our attempt to name where we are – how things are with us. Summer is beginning, normally a time of easing up a bit, some vacation may lie ahead. As we begin the season we hear the question asked of us, "Where are you?" It is also the kind of question someone might ask us when we seem distracted, or not paying attention. "Where are you, where did you go?" Maybe we have just lost track of where we are, who we are and where we should be going. Maybe we just plod along, very busy, very scattered by the rush and routine. Or maybe, like Adam, we are hiding out, afraid to face or deal with something that needs addressing. Summer usually provides some space and leisure for people. It’s a good time to ask ourselves the question of this first reading, "Where am I?" and then add, "And where am I going?"

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:


No one is safe by his (or her) own strength,

but he (or she) is safe by the grace and mercy of God.

St Cyprian


The Lord God called to the man and asked him,
"Where are you?"

Genesis 3: 9

I remember a biblical scholar once asking our study group if we thought God did not know where Adam was at that moment. I found his query to be a teaser question because I had really not thought much about why God would challenge Adam this way. So, to better understand, I posed God’s question to myself. For me, it is a question that helps make me more self-aware of where I am in my relationship with God.

I propose any interesting exercise we can all do in the coming week. At odd times of the day or just before or after you decide, ask "Where are you?" in relation to God. Or pick different topics of current concern and ask the same question.

  • On racism. . . "Where are you?"
  • On care for creation. . . "Where are you?"
  • On immigration. . . "Where are you?
  • On nonviolence. . . "Where are you?"
  • On suppression of indigenous peoples. . . "Where are you?"
  • On nuclear weapons & military industry. . . "Where are you?"
  • On life and dignity of the human person. . . "Where are you?"
  • On the common good. . . "Where are you?"
  • On the poor and vulnerable. . . "Where are you?"
  • In the pursuit of justice and peace. . . "Where are you?’
  • On standing in solidarity with our global family. . . "Where are you?"

If we ever hope to help create heaven on earth (like we pray in the Lord’s Prayer), we cannot ‘hide out’ from these and other pressing social issues. Because, while we often address personal sin, we also have to be aware of the part we play in social sin. In our human state, we cannot address every issue but we should be very aware of God’s position and align ourselves accordingly. In his Mass of 5/13/17, Pope Francis states, "In ‘asking’ and ‘demanding’ of each of us the fulfillment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia."

Where are you?

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral,

Raleigh, NC


Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus said:

"Who ever does the will of God

is my brother and sister and mother."


Some people admire Jesus, call him a holy man, a great ethical teacher, and a model for peace. All true. But there is a danger that titles like that can also be a way of putting him off, keeping him at a distance. It’s not just about admiration. For us, Jesus is more. He is the powerful one God has sent us. He not only teaches us but, through his grace, enables us to do the will of God.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How do I discern the will of God in my daily life?
  • Who and what aides me to do that?


"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out." ---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Walic Thomas #0405380 (On death row since 8/9/96)
  • James Davis #0510234 (10/2/96)
  • Melvin White #0434355 (10/15/96)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:


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If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

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3. Our webpage: - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.

Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.


St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736


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