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. "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?
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
"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. " - ibidI 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.]