June 9, 2024

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

We all know the story of Adam and Eve, the story that results in the fall of mankind and the stain of original sin. Upon falling and committing the first sin, Adam immediately hides himself. He is full of shame, embarrassment, and fear. It’s that feeling to which we can all relate, and I know I felt it as a child whenever my brother and I would fight or misbehave. Our mother would say those words, “Just wait until your father comes home.” Oh, how we wanted to hide! We felt shame and fear. Fortunately for us all, our Heavenly Father is a Father of love and mercy, even more so than any earthly father can be.

Sin is a vicious cycle where the devil will utilize shame to keep us even further from God. The evil one begins by tempting us to do something we know that we shouldn’t, and when we fall and commit that act, he is the first one to accuse us, to make us feel shame. There is an important distinction between shame and guilt. Shame turns us inward, where we seek to hide even from God. But when we sin our conscience rightly feels guilty, and that guilt moves us to act by turning to God and seeking repentance and reconciliation. St. John Chrysostom sums up this dilemma, “Be ashamed when you sin, don’t be ashamed when you repent. Sin is the wound; repentance is the medicine. Sin is followed by shame; repentance is followed by boldness. Satan has overturned this order and given boldness to sin and shame to repentance.” In short, we should never go out and sin boldly, but when we fall, we should seek repentance boldly.

In the Gospel today Jesus speaks of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and says those who commit that blasphemy never will have forgiveness and they are guilty of an eternal sin. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the denial of sin or maintaining a “right” to commit a sinful act to the point of a resolute refusal to repent and the rejection of God’s overtures of mercy. For God’s willingness to forgive is truly limitless, but He will not force a person to accept his mercy. There is no such thing as an unforgiveable sin, but an unforgivable disposition that does not even want repentance and reconciliation. God respects our free will to the point where He will allow us to choose un-repentance. If we simply do not want God’s mercy, He will respect that decision.

Never allow a cycle of sin and shame to keep you from our loving Father. Whenever we fall, however big or small our fall may be, we turn away from God in that moment. And then our God immediately calls out to us as He did to Adam and Eve by asking, “Where are you? What is it that you have done?” He’s not seeking us to apply a punishment, and he’s not asking what we have done because he doesn’t know. He’s seeking us to bring us back to Him and inviting us to confess our guilt. Shame and fear are tools used by the evil one to keep us away from mercy, away from the Sacrament of Confession. The only person who wants us to stay far away from mercy, reconciliation, and love is the devil. Be bold in seeking repentance!

 

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Brendan