Sunday Scripture readings, March 27, 2022: Fourth Sunday of Lent
1) Jos 5:9-12 Psalm 34:2-7
2) 2 Cor 5:17-21 Gospel: Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
God reveals himself as the one who removes shame
Shame is an experience we don’t often talk about, possibly because we are ashamed to acknowledge that we feel it. One reason it’s difficult to talk about is that the conversation has a tendency to go in the direction of revealing what it is that we are ashamed of, which is exactly what we want to avoid.
We feel ashamed of things we have done. But on an emotional level — different from the level of our thinking — we can feel shame just as much about things that have happened to us. A person can feel shame for their shabby clothes, for their ugly teeth, for being incontinent, for having been sexually assaulted. It is this kind of shame that is addressed in our first reading today.
After rescue from slavery in Egypt and a 40-year journey through a wilderness, the Israelites have arrived in the land where God wants them to live.
As a sign of being in a deep, covenant relationship with God, the men get circumcised, according to God’s instruction. Then the people celebrate Passover, the meal that recalls God’s rescuing them from slavery.
In between the circumcising and the celebrating, God makes a declaration to their leader. “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you'” (Jos 5:9).
The stigma of having been enslaved, the disgrace of being treated as non-persons, the indignity of being used as someone’s tools — the shame of all of this, God says, has been removed.
What connection can we find between this ancient text and our own shame?
American slavery is not so long in the past as to cast no shadow in the present — only two lifetimes ago. When I was born, there were still elderly Black Americans who had been born into slavery. But as a white person, I will leave it to Black people to ponder the message these words to Joshua may have for them.
For everyone, it is of profound significance that God reveals himself as the one who removes shame. We cannot change how other people look at us for what has happened to us or perhaps our feelings about it.
But there is an inner liberation from knowing in the depths of ourselves that of anything that causes us to feel such shame, God says, “Today I have removed the reproach from you.”
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.