Saint Francis of Assisi (Memorial)
We today are flushed with shame.
We can all probably relate to the Israelites in today’s first reading (Baruch 1:15). Who hasn’t felt red-faced with embarrassment at making a mistake? Who hasn’t had the humbling experience of admitting we have done something truly wrong? We can all feel ashamed at times—and it goes beyond embarrassment or remorse.
Guilt is something we feel when we realize we have done something wrong. Shame, however, is something more. It’s what we feel when we let our wrongdoings cling to us and define us. It’s the feeling that comes when we think there is something disgraceful and unacceptable about who we are, not just what we have done. It can make us feel unlovable, and it can prevent us from turning to God for help.
That is where the Israelites found themselves in exile in Babylon. They realized that their sin had brought about the destruction of Jerusalem. Holding tightly to their faith, they still met to read God’s word and offer heartfelt prayers, but they were burdened with shame. They mourned the death of so many people, and they bemoaned the fact that they could have prevented the sack of Jerusalem if only they had obeyed God’s word.
But rather than remaining mired in shame, they turned to God in repentance. “Not on . . . just deeds . . . do we base our plea for mercy” (Baruch 2:19). They trusted that God would keep his covenant with them despite all their sins (2:27, 35). And he did. In time, their exile ended, and they came home to rebuild Jerusalem once more.
When he sent Jesus, God removed our guilt and our shame. Jesus took all our sins and “endured the cross, despising its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Now he assures us that he doesn’t condemn us. We don’t need to be burdened by shame any longer.
If you, like the Israelites, are feeling burdened by shame, perhaps God is inviting you to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Unburden yourself. Confess whatever is weighing you down. Then ask God to remove your guilt and lift your shame. And breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude as you hear the priest say, “May God give you pardon and peace.”
“Lord, I come to you for healing and forgiveness. Help me to live free from shame.”
Psalm 79:1-5, 8-9
Word Among Us