Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.
The writings of the Fathers of the Church attest to the troubles and persecutions of the early church, and to the infidelity of some self-professed Christians who found it more convenient to obey civil authorities than to stand by the hard truths of the faith. Everyone knew of the savage torture and death of the martyrs, many people preferred an easier route to salvation.
I have met many who assure me that God loves everybody unconditionally, and everyone is assured of salvation. There was no need for the Lord to die on the cross, or for martyrs to follow in his footsteps. A good and loving God really should not send anyone to Hell!
If I saw that everyone is indeed on the road to salvation I might believe it, but my eyes tell me differently. I meet too many whose habitual bad choices destroy their bodies, minds, and spirit; and wreak havoc on their families and neighbors. Given their choices and stubborn refusal of the better opportunities we offer them , what can God's mercy do for them? The one thing God will not do is deprive them of their power to choose.
In today's gospel, Jesus pronounces his most severe warning, "...the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." He assures us that he will not take affronts against himself personally, "Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven...." But slamming the door against the Holy Spirit cuts one off from life, peace, unity, healing, forgiveness, and salvation forever. "Made in God's image" means we are free as God is free to choose, and our choices have consequences.
The faithful are called first to make the better choices of fidelity, in the courage of hope, with the strength of love. Perhaps our presence, example, and witness -- which seem obnoxious to some -- will persuade those on the road to perdition to try our holy way of life. We have little choice in the manner, for we cannot save others by joining in their sin.