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Blog 9: Be Transformed - Pure and Undefiled

By: Dr. Bob Schuchts

 

Neither do I condemn you.

Go, and from now on do not

sin any more.

John 8:11

Original Innocence

Shame is generally understood as a consciousness of sin or shortcoming resulting in a condition of dishonor or disgrace. To understand its origins, we need to go back to the beginning of human history where this deadly wound first took hold in the heart of Adam and Eve, when they covered themselves and hid from God after violating his commandments.

As we know, Adam and Eve began their life in a state of perpetual grace, fully participating in the inner life of God. All of their actions were done according to justice, because they trusted God and submitted to his will in every aspect of their daily life. As long as they continued in communion with God, they remained pure and undefiled, in a state that St. John Paul II refers to as “original innocence.”

From Grace to Discgrace

The instant Adam and Eve succumbed to the father of lies they lost their innocence. At that moment, shame arose in their consciousness, as they moved out of a state of grace and into disgrace. Immediately, they became self-conscious and began to cover themselves, recognizing they no longer felt safe to be seen as they were in their deficiency: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” After covering themselves, they hid again—this time from God (Gen 3:7–8).

Shame Blocks Intimacy

In his commentary on this passage, St. John Paul II draws our attention to the freedom and intimacy Adam and Eve experienced before shame entered the picture: “They see and know each other, in fact, with all the peace of the interior gaze, which creates precisely the fullness of intimacy of persons.” This is what we all long for, isn’t it? To be seen and known and loved, without pretensions and without the fear of condemnation. Sadly, shame interferes with this deepest need and desire.

Threatening our Core Identity

Do you recognize what is at stake here with the onset of sin and shame? Our core identity is threatened. God created each one of us to be pure and undefiled in a state of original innocence to participate in his inner life of holiness, and to enjoy continuing intimacy with him and with one another. However, sin and shame cuts us off from communion; we end up covering ourselves so that others won’t see and know our dis-grace. We lose a measure of our capacity to participate in God’s inner life (his grace) in every area of our being where shame has a hold on us. 

"Healthy" Shame vs. Shamelessnes

…. shame has many faces. There is a healthy side to shame, which is a consciousness of our sin as deficiency, or loss of grace. The antithesis would be “shamelessness” that throughout scriptures is used to describe people who have completely disregarded God’s justice and are setting themselves up for destruction (see Zephaniah 2, Jude 1:13).

Shame, in this positive sense, is awareness that we have moved out of purity and communion and that there is some part of our lives that is defiled and in a state of dis-grace. When responded to in humility, this kind of shame leads us to repentance and confession, as the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and God’s righteousness (see John 16:8)….

God's Remedy for Shame

…. God’s mercy is the only known remedy for our shame. And the sacrament of reconciliation is one of the Church’s primary means of communicating this incredible and completely undeserved gift of God’s compassion and forgiveness. Through the Sacrament, the Holy Spirit is capable of reaching the deepest areas of our heart that keep us in degradation and separation. “The whole power of the Sacrament of Penance [Reconciliation] consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in intimate friendship” (CCC, 1468). As such it heals the wounds of shame (dis-grace) and restores us in our true identity in Christ as pure and undefiled children of the Father (see 1 Jn 3:1-3).

Excerpts from Be Transformed, pages 121-123

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