"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mass Chat: I got nothing...

Except shame.

Today's reading is one of my favorites, if I can say such a thing, because the entire Letter to the  Hebrews is very important to me - especially when Paul urges that we go to him (Christ), outside the gates of popular opinion and culture, sharing his shame (bearing the insult he bore).  So what does that mean?  "Sharing his shame"?  Especially since in today's reading he says Christ "despised the shame of the cross".  Another translation says, "for the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, heedless of its shame."  That works better.  It fits the Gospel, I think.

Shame is good.

Pope Francis mentions shame rather frequently.  Shame is a bad word in contemporary culture, but Francis is saying it.  On the occasion of the feast of St. Ignatius, he spoke to the Jesuits, praying for the 'grace' of shame: “We ask for the grace of shame, the shame that comes from a continuous conversation of mercy with him, the shame that makes us blush before Jesus Christ,” he said.
Pope Francis prayed [...] that he and his fellow Jesuits would receive “the grace of shame” for their failures and the humility to recognise that whatever good they accomplish is really done by the Lord.
In his homily Pope Francis prayed that Mary would “help us experience shame for our inadequacy before the treasure that has been entrusted to us, so that we would live with humility before God”. - Source

In another instance, the Holy Father said:
... shame is a true Christian virtue, and even human ... the ability to be ashamed: I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country to those who are never ashamed are called “sin vergüenza’: this means ‘the unashamed ', because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed and to be ashamed is a virtue of the humble, of the man and the woman who are humble. "
Pope Francis continued: “ we must have trust, because when we sin we have an advocate with the Father, "Jesus Christ the righteous." And He "supports us before the Father" and defends us in front of our weaknesses. But you need to stand in front of the Lord "with our truth of sinners", "with confidence, even with joy, without masquerading... We must never masquerade before God." And shame is a virtue: "blessed shame." "This is the virtue that Jesus asks of us: humility and meekness". - Vatican Radio
We feel shame for actual sin, for failures to love and do good.  We blush over our inappropriateness, our lack of accomplishment.  We can cry out in prayer, "Lord how can I atone for all that I have done?"  And we are ashamed because we cannot make enough amends, enough reparation - even if we went to those we somehow cheated, maligned, lied to, disparaged, and apologized and kissed their feet and tried to make amends - perhaps they would still despise us.  Yet even then, if we prayed and did penance as long and as hard as life, we could never undo the offense against charity and truth.  What have we that we can exchange? 

"Humility and meekness are like the frame of a Christian life. A Christian must always be so, humble and meek. And Jesus waits for us to forgive us. We can ask Him a question: Is going to confession like to a torture session? No! It is going to praise God, because I, a sinner , have been saved by Him. And is He waiting for me to beat me? No, with tenderness to forgive me. And if tomorrow I do the same? Go again, and go and go and go .... He always waits for us. This tenderness of the Lord, this humility, this meekness .... "This confidence, concluded Pope Francis "gives us room to breathe." "The Lord give us this grace, the courage to always go to Him with the truth, because the truth is light and not the darkness of half-truths or lies before God. It give us this grace! So be it. " - ibid
I think this is what saves us from morbid shame, 'that sorrow which leads to death'.  The Blood of Jesus is our atonement.  Like the leprous Naaman, we bathe in it seven times - seven times seventy times as Jesus told Peter.  When we begin to think we are something, that shame - united to the shame of the Cross and of the Blood, reminds us that we are totally dependent upon God's grace and merciful love which exceeds all we ever knew, which can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

"Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name." - 1 Peter 4:16

We are what we are however.  We can not glory in our shame - that is pride.  Pride glories in shame.  It calls sin a virtue.  To exult in our sin is to glory in shame.  That isn't virtuous.   Oddly enough, so-called "gay-pride" is a form of reparative therapy promoted as an easy solution to the problem of shame.  A shame which is based in sexual identity or internalizing societal disapproval of homosexuality.
"Unfortunately many go about in a way which shows them to be an enemy of the cross of Christ... Their god is their abs and their glory is in their shame." - Philippians 3:19 

I think that to despise the shame, or rather to endure it; to bear the shame that Christ bore, is to understand the authentic meaning of shame.  Such shame is something much more fundamental.  As such, there is a sense, an echo of that 'original shame' after the fall which wounds us - which is our sin and propensity for sin.  Christ despised sin: He endured the shame, the consequence of it.  I'm not sure I'm able to articulate that very well in my reflection here.  I don't think this sense of shame is the same as the shame that kills, but rather the shame that frees us.  Christ descends into that place, He stoops down to us and lifts us - he sanctifies us and atones for us.  "Though I am afflicted and poor, yet the Lord thinks of me.  You are my help and deliverer; O my God, hold not back!" 

The shame that kills is related to what Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians: "Indeed, the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death." - 2 Cor. 7:10
Consider how Christ endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. - Hebrews 12: 1-4

Song for this post here.

[Ed. note: This post is the result of reading another writer who said a person should feel shame simply because of same sex attraction.  That is incorrect.]


  1. Tough subject to write on. One problem is that scripture is here using two different senses of shame, the ancient pagan conception and the new, revolutionary christian conception. The shame of Christ's cross is only a shame in the first sense: the ancient pagan conception where shame turns on the external recognition by the community (in this case, those assembled to judge Christ). But as we know, those shouting "crucify him!" and shaming him were wrong, and so the shame of the cross is no real shame at all, but actually the glory of Christ and all Christians.

    Conversely, christian shame does not turn on the external recognition of the community, but on what God and all those who have the beatific vision (the heavenly community) observe. Notice also that the first pagan sense of shame, Christ's shame, in this case concerned no sin at all, whereas Christian shame always involves sin--whether original or personal. St. Paul is using the christian sense of shame when he talks of those whose pride is in their shame. To an ancient pagan, that notion is nonsensical, since it wouldn't be their pride if it was considered shameful. But Paul is pointing to something deeper: that the opinions of men are not the real source of shame, but God and the heavenly community.

    Hope that makes sense--I don't have time to edit because I have to go to adoration...

    1. See how hard it is to write about it?

    2. I should also mention that Christ really was shamed. He was thrown out of the Temple as it were - God was banished from the Temple - heaped with insult - as in the canticle of the Suffering Servant - so he took upon himself all our shame. It isn't a biblical sense contrasted with a modern sense at all. The saints demonstrate that, esp. the fools for Christ. It's quite profound and very deep spiritually.

      I was reading Angela of Foligno on the subject late last night.

    3. I published the last comment without finishing.

      Oh well.

      Moving on now.

    4. To further confuse everyone, you can talk about temporal shame (shame actually experienced by a person at a moment in life) and divine shame (shame from the point of view of God and eternal beatific vision). Pagan sinners (as I once was) do not experience temporal shame as they pursue their lust (at least once they've done the sin so many times they've effectively silenced conscience), but they experience divine shame once they have the particular judgment and see themselves for how they really are. I once gloried in my shame, and I certainly was not ashamed of it nor did anyone shame me, but I certainly lived under the shadow of divine shame (though I was mostly senseless to it). Conversely, Christ experienced temporal shame, but not divine shame since he was without sin. Divine shame assumes the fact of guilt and Christ had none.

      Hope that adds some clarity. The reason the issue is muddled is because christian thinkers appropriated the ethical categories of the ancient pagans, and then revolutionized them, turned them inside out. Later anti-christian thinkers like Machiavelli and Nietzsche then came along and tried to undo the christian revolution of ethics, and restore the ancient pagan conceptions. It should also be noted that orthodox christianity is famous for its novel conception of guilt rather than shame, and thus ancient pagans lived in "shame cultures" and while christians created communities where the concept of guilt was doing the heavy lifting.

    5. It just dawned on me that you were also writing about a third sense of shame, a kind of mystical shame that Christ felt in the weight of our sins and that other saints have felt. So Christ experienced a double shame: he was shamed by his community (thrown out of the temple, crucified) and then experienced the mystical shame/burden of our sins. Thanks for bringing out this fascinating subject, and now I'll go away now.

    6. Thanks for expanding on this - very good - thanks Scott.

  2. Thank you for this, Terry. I don't think we hear about this aspect of the Gospel nearly enough.

  3. It seems like the way you speak of shame is similar to poverty of spirit.

    1. I think it is in a way, it is also about compunction.


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