As the month of December approaches, the readings of the lectionary of the Church reflect a sort of pathway to the Feast of Christmas--the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This pathway begins with the announcement to Zacharias, who is a priest at the temple, and also married to Elizabeth. Both of these individuals, as the Gospel states, were blameless. Yet even though they were blameless (God-fearing), Elizabeth was without child, and to further exacerbate the problem, she was elderly. We can imagine during that time Zacharias and Elizabeth might have had moments of disappointment and sorrow because they couldn’t have children. In those days (and sometimes even now) not being able to have children was a shame upon the family. It was seen as a “curse.” Truth be told, the Gospels does not say it was a curse. Further, it is not due to Zacharias or Elizabeth’s sin, because the Gospels state they were “righteous” or “blameless.” Nor does it state that it was caused by a “generational curse,” that is, the sins of parents or grandparents in the past. It was simply due to biological reasons. Inferring anything further would take the Gospels out of context and impose judgment without evidence.
The Gospel's state, however, that due to societal and cultural norms, Zacharias and Elizabeth, felt shame. Shame is the feeling of disappointment and/or embarrassment. This shame of not being able to have children was always on their minds. They must have thought, ‘we pray, fast, keep the law, go to temple…we do all the right things and yet God cannot remove this shame.’ It must have been a heavy burden on their heart. Even so, as the Gospel clearly points out, their faith in God did not waver or become dull. They still loved God. Here we learn a valuable lesson. That is, loving God and having faith in Him does not mean that life will be perfect, or that everything will go well. In fact, it might be the opposite. As we see in the lives of the Saints, they suffered much but kept the faith until their dying breath. How do we act toward God when trials and tribulation happen in our life? How is our faith in God during the turbulent times? Are we strong in our faith only when things go right?
Another aspect of this Gospel portion is the idea that shame did not stop Zacharias and Elizabeth from living life. They were willing to endure the shame, despite others making judgments about them. Now, as I stated earlier, not being able to have children, is not a sign of sin. (Unless it has been indicated to be so by spiritual insight or counsel.) But if we look back in our lives and see the many ways that we have sinned “against” God, or rather, sinned “with” someone, we have an overwhelming sense of shame. (I speak not only of sexual sin but also of all kinds of sins.) The shame, in regard to sin, is proper and right. We should feel ashamed of our sins. However, after confession and receiving the forgiveness of God, that shame should be lifted from us. Living in the past and feeling continuously shameful is unhealthy for the soul. In some ways, others have brought shame into our lives through their sinful actions. No matter the means and ways that shame has entered our life, God wants us to be free from shame. This does not mean that one day we will wake up and not feel the shame anymore. No! Rather, God will, if we ask Him, give us the strength to deal with the shame and to eventually overcome it.
Shame prevents us from being our best and give God our best. In other words, we don’t think we are good enough for God. So we don’t pursue anything extraordinary for God, but do the minimum, because the shame controlling our destiny.
My dear brothers and sisters, go to confession and receive the forgiveness of God, purchased by the Blood of Christ on Calvary, and remove the shame from your life. Then, you will live to your full potential.