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Homily of Bishop Crean- 4th Sunday (A) – 29th January 2023

4th Sunday (A)

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

29th January, 2023

The Power of Shame

My friends,

Shame is often an overwhelming feeling or emotion.  It can come from within or without. Depending on our spiritual formation we can become a victim to a deep sense of shame and guilt which can make life very difficult for ourselves.  In its most extreme form, it manifests itself in scruples often of the most detailed kind whereby we can find it very difficult to fully embrace the healing that should come from the experience of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  That experience is from within and often overwhelming.

Shame can also come from without, and this is no less powerful and potentially controlling.  We are familiar with the practice of “name and shame” as a way of humiliating and punishing.  The end game is the same by way of impact.  It is to control the life of another.  A new and powerful instrument in the hands of the merchants of shame is/are social media in its many faces.

Of course, newspapers were always and continue to be agents of shame.  The misfortunes, failures and crimes are used in various ways to humiliate and destroy the reputations of people.  Hence, the fear under which so many live “Will it end up in the papers?”

It’s no accident then that GDPR has come to the fore so much – one’s privacy is important.  GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation is designed for that purpose and it helps all of us in life and work to respect the dignity of every person and be respected.

Contrast that with those who campaign for and insist on a very wide entitlement to freedom of information.  It is sought on the pretext of transparency.  But it surely has limits.  

My friends, these thoughts on shame are prompted by Paul’s words to the Corinthians where he points out that “It was to shame the wise/strong that God chose what is foolish/weak by human reckoning”.

It is something that applies to us believers in the new emerging social context in Ireland which is increasinglyliberal in terms of personal choice and belief.  In this emerging new milieu there is in the experience of many an increasing intolerance for genuine believers, for people of faith.  This intolerance works in a disingenuous call for a pluralism whereby people of faith (who pay taxes too) are marginalized by shame and ridicule, whereby genuine people are made so embarrassed and ashamed of their faith that they find it difficult to be upfront in many contexts.  The impact especially for many is that our faith-based wisdom and empowerment for living is being privatised through subtle but effective intimidation.  This is prevalent especially in our schools among teachers and generally among parents.  Named and unnamed agendas are at work in our midst which are slowly eroding the cohesive capacity of moral values in society and doing our young people a great disservice as many are deprived of the formation of an effective personal moral compass and the inspiration and motivation that comes from authentic Christian faith and practice.

The antidote to shame is self-confident and pride in the best sense.  The reason for our genuine confidence is so well expressed in St. Paul’s words this morning to the Corinthians. (2nd Reading)

“The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by Gods doing he has become our wisdom and our virtue and our holiness and our freedom”.

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