on overcoming shame

I’m sure most everyone knows about what happened Sunday night during the SuperBowl half-time show: a shameless media prank has upstaged most other news in the past three days. One of the more intelligent responses I have seen appeared in the Washington Post today.

There is an element within popular culture that seeks to “liberate” humanity from the experience of shame, an experience which has been with us since the days of our first parents: ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ (Genesis 3:10). It seems to me that, in its own perverse way, the people of our time are subconsciously seeking a return to the original state of the Garden of Eden, in which both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame before each other (Genesis 2:25). Of course, there is no attention to the context in Genesis: a man and his wife alone, before the Fall, etc. As a result, we are witnessing shamelessness, not freedom from shame.

There is the desire today to grasp the fruits of the Garden for ourselves, by ourselves, and to claim our autonomy. Of course this is impossible: one does not reverse the original sin by repeating it. Freedom from shame is not possible without freedom from sin… and this is a gift from God, not something we can grasp for ourselves.

It seems to me that one of the primary tasks of those who understand the Pope’s vision of the Theology of the Body is to help people see that the way to freedom and a full human life is through surrender, not grasping. This is what Jesus Christ taught us through his life, and most especially by his behavior in another Garden. As we approach Lent, and the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, I hope this will be a point of reflection for us: the way of the Cross is the path to freedom. The good news of Christ is that, through the gift of himself, he has made it possible – even in this life – for us to respect the gift of the human body. It is a slow, arduous process, an education in love through self-control and self-denial, but isn’t the gift of a redeemed sexuality worth it? What could be more glorious than imaging God’s love through our own?

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