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Siblings of Jesus? Unforgivable Sin? Father Dave Answers Questions From the Gospel of Mark

At the start of a recent homily, Father Dave addresses two things from the Gospel of St. Mark that Catholics and non-Catholics alike often have questions about.  

In the Gospel of St. Mark and in a few other places, we hear about Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Father Dave explains that those who translated Gospel texts from the original languages wanted to keep  faithful to the language. In the culture of Jesus’ time, immediate and extended family were considered almost the same, to the degree that they would actually use the same word for “brothers” and “cousins” – two family members that we would have distinct names for in today’s culture.  

RELATED: Learning About Sacrifice, With the Help of St. Mark

The Greek term Adelphos used The by St. Mark in his Gospel is an ambiguous word that could mean either brother or cousin. This passage could actually say that Jesus had blood brothers and sisters, or it could refer to cousins or more distant relatives, common parlance in Near East family descriptions. 

“So we’re left with a big shrug, right?” Father Dave says. “Which is why many of our Christian brothers and sisters would adhere to the fact that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth, but not necessarily after that, whereas we, from our sacred Tradition, have always believed and always taught that Mary is blessed Mary ever virgin, and that she did not give birth to any more children. So for us, our faith always comes with a balance of Scripture and Tradition. And tradition isn’t simply, well, we’ve always thought that so I guess it must be right. It is, we believe, Holy Spirit- inspired sacred Tradition, in a similar way, that the Scriptures are inspired.  So for us, if we take those two together, we know that we must be talking about cousins, and not literal brothers and sisters here.”

The second question Father Dave answers comes from the Gospel of St. Mark when Jesus refers to the ‘Unforgivable Sin.’’  He begins with Jesus’ own words, “All sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness.”  

LISTEN: Are Any Sins ‘Unforgivable’?

“What does that mean?” Father Dave asks.

Father Dave notes that St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical about the Holy Spirit specifically addresses this concept.

“Scholars and official Church teachings have been unable to really pinpoint exactly what Jesus means by that. St. Pope John Paul II said that it really emanates from God’s gift of free will –that God desires that all be saved and offers forgiveness. But he doesn’t ever force it down our throats. So in that sense, John Paul II defined this ‘blaspheming the Holy Spirit’ as a complete, utter rejection of God with our own free will. So it’s not that God can’t, but that God won’t force it on us.” 

Father Dave goes on, “So is there an unforgivable sin? Is there some secret list somewhere, like the secret menu at a fast food place? No. There’s not something that you can utter by mistake or even intentionally that will cast you away from God if you seek God’s forgiveness, which is what we’re encouraged to do all the time. There’s also not one particular thing you or I could ever do, that God wouldn’t forgive if we asked.”

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‘Wildcat’ Producer on Flannery O’Connor’s Lasting Influence

Eric Groth, president of ODB Films and executive producer of “Wildcat” stops by the show to talk about the film about the late Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. ODB Films is an award-winning not-for-profit Catholic film company whose mission is to foster an encounter with Christ through artfully made, spiritually rich films.  Their newest movie, “Wildcat” was written and directed by Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke and details O’Connor’s struggle to publish her first novel. 

Flannery O’Connor was a devout Catholic living in the Jim Crow Era south in the 50s and 60s.  When she was 23 years old, she began writing, hoping to leave her home in Georgia and see the world. At age 25, she was diagnosed with Lupus. Over the next 14 years O’Connor wrote “A Prayer Journal,” more than 30 short stories and two novels. 

Eric explains why he believes her writing was so important.  “She was addressing a very contentious, racist south.  As a Catholic, she was really calling out a lot of Protestant brothers and sisters — she was calling out the church that would be worshiping Jesus on Sunday and wearing the Ku Klux Klan hoods on Monday, and the culture of white supremacy that was masked as Christian ethics.”  

“She wrote a lot about grace and her stories were tough, because we want heroes in stories and in her stories, [we wonder] ‘Who’s the protagonist? Who’s the antagonist?’” Eric continues. “But she showed how God delivers grace, however God wants to deliver grace, and we as humans often resist grace because it can be painful.”

Father Dave and Eric discuss the origins of this movie and how it began 10 years ago with Ethan’s daughter, Maya Hawke.  “This really started with her,” Eric says. “She was 15 and going to Catholic school in New York and she read Flannery’s “A Prayer Journal” and fell in love with this woman.” Maya would later go on to ask her dad to write and direct a movie about O’Connor that she could star in.  Eric and ODB films were eventually approached for financing and a producing partnership.  Eric tells Father Dave what attracted him to the film: “I love my Catholic Faith. I Love our stories and telling great stories and she [O’Connor] was a bit of a mystery.”

“This film was super special for a lot of reasons,” Eric says. “Flannery was a devout Catholic, so we could bring the beauty of the Catholic faith naturally and organically in telling the story without ever having to force it in any way.”

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Unleashing Your Artistic Gift With Clare McCallan

Father Dave welcomes Clare McCallan, founder and creative director of St. Joseph’s Home for Artisans, TV and podcast host, and spoken word poet, to the show to discuss her new book, Courage to Create: Unleashing Your Artistic Gifts for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

In her book, Clare and her artist friends ask the question, “How do you own your identity as an artist for Christ?” Through a series of stories and lessons, they share their wisdom for overcoming obstacles in the creative life to help artists fulfill their callings and serve the Lord.  

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Sacred Conversations: Dr. Christopher Reed Shares Tips for More Meaningful Communication

Do you remember the last conversation you had that challenged your way of thinking or inspired you to act? A conversation that changed your mind, your heart, or maybe even your life?  To help us have more meaningful conversations more often, Father Dave welcomes Dr. Christopher Reed to the show.

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Dr. Timothy O’Malley Examines What It Means To Be a Eucharistic People

As the American Church embarks on a three-year Eucharistic Revival, Dr. Timothy O’Malley joins the Busted Halo Show to discuss his new book “Becoming Eucharistic People: The Hope and Promise of Parish Life.” O’Malley is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ executive planning team for the Revival, as well as director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life and academic director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.

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How Many Times Do We Bless Ourselves During Mass?

Anna-Lissa from Texas calls in to ask Father Dave a question of faith: “There are two specific times in the Mass that we bless ourselves, and that is at the beginning of Mass and then at the end. And so I have heard that those are the only two times we’re to bless ourselves; that we’re not to bless ourselves any other time during the Mass. Is that correct?”

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On Intinction: What Are the Rules Around Dipping the Consecrated Host into the Precious Blood?

A listener named Alan asks Father Dave if he did something wrong at Mass the other day when he ‘dunked’ the host into the wine. He says, “I don’t know why I can’t do it… I thought when I was getting communion in the ’70s and ’80s they had these things (intinction sets consisting of a plate or bowl with a matching cup) made just for that, so I’m calling you to ask, what’s the proper protocol? Are there rules against it?”

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Fatherly Advice: Keeping the Faith Through a Loved One’s Illness

  A listener named Mark asks Father Dave, “How do you keep your faith when a parent’s health gets worse and looks to be permanent?”…

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Fatherly Advice: Relating to Mary

A listener named Amy messages on Facebook asking how to view Mary as a mother when artwork makes her look so solemn. She shares that she would love to connect with Our Lady, but doesn’t find prayers such as the Rosary to be very approachable. Father Dave and Christina offer some advice.

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Co-Creator of ‘Blue’s Clues’ and ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ Offers Life Lessons for All Ages

Learning lasts beyond our days in school, and Father Dave welcomes Angela Santomero, creator of seven award-winning children’s educational shows, including “Blue’s Clues” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” They discuss her new book for adults is called “Life Clues: Unlocking the Lessons to an Exceptional Life.

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