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Reflection: Healing, Shame and Mercy

Yes, He healed her body and stopped her bleeding, but now He was determined to restore her.

Yes, He healed her body and stopped her bleeding, but now He was determined to restore her.  He would not allow her to slink away unnoticed, and continue in her shame.

Yes, He healed her body and stopped her bleeding, but now He was determined to restore her. He would not allow her to slink away unnoticed, and continue in her shame.


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - I love the story from Mark’s gospel (5:25-34) of the woman who’d endured years of suffering from bleeding. She was a social pariah and no one even dared get near her for fear of becoming unclean themselves. Though she was shunned and outcast, she was brave enough to push her way through the crowd hoping to touch Jesus’ cloak.

In her shame she didn’t dare hope to see His face, to meet His gaze, or touch His hand – she knew that was too much to expect. Still, she believed that just the touch of His cloak as he passed by would be enough to save her. And immediately she received the healing she sought. But the best part is what Jesus does next.

Yes, He healed her body and stopped her bleeding, but now He was determined to restore her. He would not allow her to slink away unnoticed, and continue in her shame. When she had summoned the courage to admit it was she who touched Him, He did what probably no one had done in years – He looked at her and spoke to her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

He acknowledged her as a person, a woman, and a daughter of God. “…be freed from your suffering.” Her bleeding had already stopped, so it wasn’t her physical suffering He was speaking of. He knew so well that though she was physically cured, if she did not receive the healing in her spirit, she would never be whole. He was telling her to be free from her shame and embarrassment and feelings of worthlessness and to no longer hide in the shadows. He was telling her to hold her head up again, and remember that her faith had brought her healing, and Jesus Himself had restored her dignity and worth. He looked into her eyes and affirmed her in love. Now she could truly “go in peace.”

I am, at times, rather like this woman in one important way. My heart is often burdened with shame, and it can be very difficult to “go in peace.” Sometimes I get so discouraged with myself and my lousy sinful behavior that I’d like to slink away and hide somewhere. After going around the same mulberry bush with the same sin for the ten-billionth time, I’d rather beat myself up with a stick than believe that Jesus forgives me and wants me to be free from shame.

Shame has its rightful place and purpose, certainly. In fact, I’d say that our world could stand a whole lot more of it sometimes! But twisting our shame is also a favorite device of the enemy.

Shame can and should bring me to my knees at the Cross. It is right that I should be ashamed of my sin and feel heartbroken at the pain I have caused His Sacred Heart. But my shame should never go any further than the foot of the Cross, for His heart is full of only one thing for me: Love. Endless, merciful love.

I am right to go to Jesus in sorrow and ask for forgiveness, but if I rise from the foot of His cross and carry the shame away with me again, I have not received His mercy at all. In fact I have insulted the love He gives me. Am I the one person in all of history for whom His sacrifice wasn’t enough? Is His blood not sufficient to cover my offenses? How arrogant! This is the trick of Satan regarding our shame.

Jesus looks at me and says, “I have forgiven you. Go in peace.” But the liar whispers, “You should be ashamed of yourself… You can’t really be forgiven for that. He might love you a little, but He still remembers what you did. You don’t deserve peace.” That proprietor of the pit snickers with glee each time a child of God walks away with a heart still full of guilt and shame, refusing to accept the miracle of forgiveness. See, if I believe that lie and continue to cling to shame, I declare Jesus a fraud and the cross a hoax.

A beloved priest once told me something I’ll always remember. After a wonderful yet intense time of confession and talking with him, he said, “From now on, this past sin is no longer your tormentor, but your teacher. You have been forgiven and God remembers it no more. You will remember, of course, but now it is to be your teacher, to help you grow in love and mercy for others.”

Is it hard to believe in the miraculous forgiveness Jesus offers us? It isn’t about you – how good or bad you are. It’s only about Him, and how perfect He is, and the lengths to which He has gone to prove how much He loves you. We are all undeserving, but we are not cast out to live as wretched, unwanted, nameless, faceless things.

Do not believe the lie of hell. Believe Him. Just believe it, and go in peace. Make it a forever trade – your shame for His mercy. You are not the dust beneath His feet, but the lost-and-found lamb in His arms.

So remember with a solemn heart the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Take your sins and your guilt and shame and leave them there in the bloodstained dirt. Then remember with gratitude that He has done this for you! What a high price He has paid for you! Who pays such a high price for something of no value or worth? Who would die for something insignificant? Who would do all that He has done for someone who meant nothing?

The wonderful truth is He has hung a price tag around your neck that says you are worth more than every ounce of gold this world has ever seen. You are in fact, priceless, because He is priceless and He sees Himself in you.

This is the only way we can ever love each other as well. We must see the price Jesus has paid for our brothers and sisters and even our enemies, and disregard the price tag placed on them by the world. Radical, huh? We are His own… and we are beloved. We are cleansed by His blood, restored to dignity by His grace, and He bids us go in peace.

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Jennifer Hartline is a Catholic Army wife and stay-at-home mother of three precious kids who writes frequently on topics of Catholic faith and daily living. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.

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Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.

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1 - 10 of 14 Comments

  1. Esther
    5 years ago

    thank you so much for a great article....i really needed to hear this. thank God i'm trading my shame for his mercy!

  2. Victoria
    5 years ago

    A beautiful, honest and very helpful read. Thank you:)
    and thank you Catholic Online!!

  3. Chris Dickes
    5 years ago

    This is so true. Sometimes the hardest part of living with guilt is forgiving yourself. I am happy to have read this article. It gives me comfort.

  4. Beth
    5 years ago

    Amen! Alleluia! Let it be sung from the roof tops!

  5. Esther
    5 years ago

    This article is wonderful....it has healed my heart...God bless you woman of faith!

  6. Kate
    5 years ago

    Beautiful. Once when I was having trouble healing after a sin, my wise and faithful mom cautioned me about becoming another Judas. I realized she was right. My sins had been forgiven, but I was stumbling again by denying myself of God’s mercy.

  7. Luis Howard
    5 years ago

    JMJ

    "...[T]his past sin is no longer your tormentor, but your teacher." Oh, what the Protestants are missing!

    Thank you, Jennifer's priest; thank you, Jennifer; thank you Catholic OnLine!

    This concept will be circulated among my family.

  8. Sally
    5 years ago

    Wow, thank-you!!

  9. Peggy
    5 years ago

    I've often thought this holding on to guilt and shame following confession and absolution is the true meaning of not taking the Lord's name in vain. Cuss words and swearing are sinful also, but this is serious business, to tell the Lord you do not trust Him. Remember the 2d Commandment.

  10. Anne-Marie
    5 years ago

    Thank you for this interesting read.
    I have had times that i have wallowed in sin and I cannot bring myself to face God.
    Just before the Holy week, I was tempted and I fell into a pit of self sorrow.
    Everything of mine was going wrong and especially at work.I felt as if there was some spiritual warfare going on.
    But a voice came out and told me to pray and have faith.
    One particular morning , i woke up at 4am and since I do not have any prayer book or prayet, I used Linda Schubery Miracle HOur book and I cried to the Lord to help me and He did.
    Right now if I stumble on any obstacles , I pray.Sometimes it is not easy but I have to do it.
    I dont know why I stumbled on your read/blog today but I am happy I have read it through and it has inspired me even in my lukewarmness still , I need to wake up and pray or talk to God in the course of the day.


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