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Shame of sin that gnaws and disfigures calls for reconciliation

      I came home from work not long ago, and in the door, I attempted to take off my coat. However, the zipper was stuck. A sliver of the coat became jammed in the zipper.

      For a few minutes I pulled and tugged at the zipper. No go. I couldn’t get that zipper to move for nothing. Becoming increasingly frustrated (and hot, what with having a parka on inside the warm house) I surrendered trying to unzip the coat, and instead employed a different tactic: I’ll remove the coat by pulling the coat off over my head. That way I would be free of the coat, and then I could attack the zipper from a variety of vantage points, not to mention doing so in a less frantic manner.

      So I removed my left arm out of the sleeve; the right arm next. I started to drag the coat over my head. About half way through that process, though, I became stuck. Somehow, my left arm slipped back into the sleeve. I can neither pull the coat back on, nor can I completely remove the coat from my body. I’m stuck, and stuck in a more embarrassing way than before.

      So here I am in my house. A 61-year old man with a parka stuck over his head, thrashing about in futile attempts to remove the coat, failing miserably to do so, expletives flying in a loud voice.

      In the middle of all this chaos walks…my wife Sara. Patiently, she first has me stand still. Then she told me to lower my voice and to stop saying what I’m saying. She proceeded to easily remove the coat from over the top of my head. Sheepishly, I thanked her.

      Now, when I was in the throes of battle with that parka, when it was stuck over my head, when I was thrashing about in my house like that…what do you suppose I was feeling? You got it: embarrassment.

      Well, my parka problem is like sin. We get all tangled up in it. We get stuck in it. And there seems to be no way out. Yes, there’s embarrassment associated with sin, but there’s something more cutting than embarrassment: shame.

      Like my parka problem, we can become enveloped in sin, and shame is the result. But do we remove ourselves from the yoke of this shame? We kick and scream, trying to eradicate ourselves from its clutches, but to no avail. We thrash about: nothing. We try the pretending-it’s-not-there ploy: zip. We cry: still there. How can we just move on?

      Here’s the deal: we cannot rid ourselves of shame. Just as Sara had to help me remove my parka from the top of my head, so we need someone to remove our shame.

      God.

      When I was thrashing about, the parka was not being used in the fashion for which it was designed. A parka is to be worn to maintain warmth, not to be used as a head dress or a pall. Once Sara had eradicated me from my predicament, she fiddled with the zipper and got it working again. Once more, I could use that parka for its intended purpose.

      When you and I sin we are acting in a way for which we were not designed. You and I are designed in the image and likeness of God. That design is intended to rest in, and give glory to, God. Sin distorts that image and likeness much in the same way my entanglement in the parka distorted the purpose of the coat. The result? Not being whole. Being divided against ourselves. Missing the bulls eye. Shame.

      God does not want us being entrapped in shame. True, a little shame can be a good thing: it can prompt us to reconciliation. But I don’t mean that. I mean the shame that we carry around day and day, year after year. A shame that gnaws and disfigures.

      Lent is just around the corner; a good time to shed that guilt. Avail yourself to the sacrament of reconciliation. One week, one month, one year, twenty-five years; makes no difference how long you’ve been away from the sacrament. Jesus the Christ wants you whole and undivided again.

      Don’t be silly, thrashing about with a parka over your head. Seek help.

      By the way, Sara had to use a pair of needle nose pliers to fix that zipper.

       

      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .       

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