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Dropping Our Shame

First Reading: Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13

Thus says the LORD:
Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted, to the tyrannical city!
She hears no voice, accepts no correction;
In the LORD she has not trusted, to her God she has not drawn near.
For then I will change and purify the lips of the peoples,
That they all may call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one accord;
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia and as far as the recesses of the North,
they shall bring me offerings.

On that day
You need not be ashamed of all your deeds, your rebellious actions against me;
For then will I remove from your midst
the proud braggarts,
And you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain.
But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD: the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong and speak no lies;
Nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue;
They shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19, 23

R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
The LORD redeems the lives of his servants;
no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Gospel: Matthew 21: 28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion? A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and
prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

NAB

dec 15

A friend once told me that she had no regrets despite the crazy, wild ride she had taken in life. Wide-eyed, I sat and just blinked back at her. I had all kinds of regrets and ten years after our conversation I have even more! There are stories that make me blush and past incidents of anger, weakness, pride, and desire that I hope are never unearthed.

Because of this bundle of shames that I carry around I am always wooed by the Psalmist’s line “Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy and your faces will not blush with shame.” This beautiful line often makes me slip into the temptation to regret even more. I think to myself, “If only I had been focused more on loving God and living virtuously I wouldn’t have any reasons to blush with shame. I may still have moments of disappointment in myself, but the deep shame wouldn’t be there.”

Yet in light of what Christ says in today’s Gospel, I’m pretty sure I’m looking at it the wrong way.

Like the tax collectors and prostitutes I know my sins. I have counted and recounted them. I know that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross God has already forgiven me of these sins but I also know the effects of those sins linger. They linger in my own heart as I look at the way I have directly hurt and damaged people. And they linger in the broken bits of the lives that I have hurt.

My friend knew that the poor and stupid choices she had made had brought her closer to the Font of Divine Mercy. She knew that in counting her sins she was able to see how much she needed Christ. And I have seen how she has taken that knowledge and rebuilt her life into one that truly lives out the Gospel message. I have tried—I am trying—to follow her lead.

Let us look to Him with joy. Let us acknowledge our sins but instead of feeling shame, let us rejoice that He hears us, forgives us, and welcomes us into the Kingdom of Heaven, bundle-free.

Are you carrying around a bundle of shames? If you haven’t confessed them to a priest yet, make an appointment to do so. If you have, surrender them to God and trust that there is a place for you in His Kingdom.

photo credit

Bonnie Engstrom is a writer, baker, speaker and homemaker. She lives with her husband and five children in central Illinois. You can find out more about her here.

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