It can be quite disheartening to watch the news these days. Our world is full of hatred, bigotry, racism, and over-stimulated greed and ego. The gap between the rich and poor is widening and random. Senseless violence is an everyday occurrence. One lives with hope, but without much optimism.

Among all of this perhaps the most distressing thing of all is the erosion of our capacity to recognise and acknowledge the truth. From the highest government offices to the major media outlets, to our local newspapers, to the thousands of bloggers, down to our dinner tables, we are becoming irresponsible, manipulative and downright dishonest with the truth, denying it where it’s inconvenient, bending it to suit our own purposes or labeling it as “fake news”, “an alternative fact”, “misinformation”, “a truth that’s no longer operative”, or as “political correctness” with no truth value.

Studies from major scientific institutes are dismissed as just another opinion, with the result that we are creating an entire society within which it’s becoming more and more difficult for any of us to trust what’s a fact and what isn’t. That’s dangerous territory, not just politically but especially spiritually.

Scripture tells us that Satan is the Prince of Lies, and Jesus makes it clear that, among all sins, failure to acknowledge the truth is far and away the most dangerous. We see this motif particularly in the text that warns us that we can commit a sin that’s unforgiveable because it’s a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

What is this sin? Why is it unforgiveable? And what has it got to do with telling lies? The unforgiveable sin is precisely the sin of lying which can become unforgiveable because of what lying can do to us.

Here’s how the biblical text unfolds: Jesus has just cast out a demon. Part of the Jewish faith at that time was the belief that only someone who came from God had the power to cast out a demon. Jesus had done that, but the Scribes and Pharisees who have just witnessed this found it to be an inconvenient truth, since they denied Jesus’s goodness. So in the face of truth they had either to acknowledge something that they did not want to or they had to manipulate the truth to give it a different meaning. They chose the latter and, clearly aware that they were manipulating the truth, accused Jesus of performing the miracle through the power of Satan. They knew better, knew they were lying, but the actual truth was too difficult to accept.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection