Homily, Fr. Ante Vuckovic, Medjugorje, August 2, 2018, Youth Festival

date: 03.08.2018.

„ Look to God that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush for shame“. David’s Psalm 34

How unusual it is that in one small sentence from the ancient David’s psalm it is so tightly put who God is what He is doing. First of all, at this place, we cannot not notice, since this place is so strongly marked with Our Lady’s presence, how Gospa had in her life very different emotions starting with sorrow, joy, grief, excitement, but there was one emotion she never went through. She did not have shame or embarrassment. Those are the same emotions that angels do not have either. This is what this verse from David’s psalm says so clearly: „ Look to God that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush for shame“. Since Our Lady, just like the angels, is gazing into the face of God, they are protected from these human emotions of shame and embarrassment. It is those emotions that make us blush or want us to sink into the ground, the emotions so related to the gaze, when David says: „ Look to God that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush for shame“. David was not like Gospa was, he was not shameless, he did things that he was ashamed for, but he wept for those and repented and he knew how to be close to God in the gift given to him through the psalms that he wrote and left to generations after him, so all those who will look to God may be radiant with joy and their faces may not blush for shame. Human gaze, or when someone looks at me makes me be embarrassed or ashamed. For us, it is far easier to handle our mistakes, faults and failures if we are not seen.

If they see us, especially if it is someone important to us, we would have this very difficult feeling of shame that imbues us from the insight out. It is something that follows man ever since he is born. Now, if we go 2500 years backwards and if we open Plato’s Republic, we will find a myth there that speaks about the same things, it is the myth of Gyges ring. Perhaps some of you heard about it. It is the tale of a shepherd Gyges who finds a magical ring of invisibility within a statue that has been exposed by an earthquake. Later on, he sat with his shepherds and accidently turned round the ring and became invisible. They continued to talk about him as if he was no there, he would again turn the ring around and discover that he is visible again and that was a miracle. He has this miraculous ring in his hand. This myth was something Plato used to investigate the human nature. Are we those who want to be just, moral by ourselves or because we want others to see us. Plato says in this philosophical experiment on ring, imagine one just and unjust man and simply give them rings. The unjust will readily take the opportunity of turning the ring round to become invisible, to get into the houses of others and to take and observe other people while invisible. He would be able to do all and he would not have to be responsible for anything. When you give a ring to the just man, he will hardly be able to remain just. He got the opportunity to be hidden and it is impossible for him to remain just in those moments. That is what we people are like, because of someone else’s gaze perhaps we are not sinful or we try to keep away from the injustice. Once no one is there to look at us, we all become more - less unjust. This is a tale that comes from the ancient times, a myth, but David knows better than this. David knows who is looking at him. He will have two results at the end, he will be rejoiced and his face would be saved from the shame. First of all, we do not understand David’s psalm as we expect differently, we expect to look at God and to come face to face with Him, would make us be put to shame as only then I would become aware of all those things that were not good in His eyes.

Look how wise David is, he says: look to God that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush for shame, but that you would be protected from the shame, for this is what God is doing. How do we know that? This is what Jesus did. Let us go to the night when Jesus was arrested, it was the night, he was taken to the courtroom, Peter, His disciple is outside. Maids asked him if he was one of those following Jesus, and he was ashamed and said: No. Once, then again and then for the third time: No, I do not know Him. As the night passes by, the sun was rising and Jesus was taken out of the courtroom and Luke said: “Lord turned and looked straight at Peter”, he found him, looked at him and Peter, in those moments, understood all.

In that moment he understood what he said the night before and what he had just done, and he went and bitterly cried. What did Peter see? When he looked at the Teacher it was the moment when none of them said anything. It was just a look from far. But Peter understood all. If he saw the look that condemned him, he would not have been able to live through that moment. Yet, he saw the gaze of his Teacher who protected him from condemning himself. It was the gaze that gave him the opportunity to come out of his own betrayal, which opened a new opportunity not to destroy himself after he betrayed his Teacher. This is what God is doing. You look into His face and your own evil will not imbue you with the shame, rather give you the opportunity to come out of the shame with your own repentance. That same night, in the other part of the town, another disciple publicly betrayed Him and brought the soldiers to arrest Him, and that is when Matthew says: “When Judah found that Jesus had been condemned, he was filled with remorse and took the thirty silver pieces back to the chief priests saying: I have sinned. I have betrayed innocent blood.”

If we open the Catechism of the Catholic Church and look into the prerequisites necessary for a good confession, Judah had them all. He admitted the guilt, tried to amend the damage and returned what he received, but he was not saved and ended up in the self-condemnation. Why? What was it that he was missing? He did not have what Peter had, he did not encounter the gaze that would set him free from condemnation. He remained alone with himself. In him, we know what it feels like when a man remains alone with himself. He cannot bare his shame nor the guilt of his betrayal. If he, by some chance, had encountered the gaze of his Teacher, perhaps he would have experienced the opportunity to be saved from self-condemnation. Nothing is as hard when a man despises himself. Only His gaze saves from that, just as when we hear David saying to us: „ Look to God that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush for shame“. For, once you remain alone with your own guilt, your own shame, you will fall into the self-condemnation. No one can be so hard on himself as one person. Only He is there to save you from yourself. This is what St. Paul says in this short excerpt in the letter to Galatians when he says: We were slaves, we slaved to the principals of this world, to emotions, politics…but He came and delivered us from all that and we are no longer slaves, but free. It is what John the Baptist saw in the moment when he saw Him for the first time, at river Jordan preaching the baptism for the forgiveness of sins and he saw that someone he was not aware of yet was coming. But in those moments he had the revelation and he knew, it is Him, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It is not the one who wishes to impose the guilt on you, but the one who removes that guilt, for He wants you in Heaven, as St. Francis says. He wants to unbound you and bring you out into the freedom. Only when you are free, you can enter into Heaven. That is why this Feast is dear to us Franciscans as it puts us into the genuine experience of Francis – once we discover God, we will discover freedom. What does it mean to be protected from the shame even after I did some bad things, as no one can protect us like Him. This world is doing the opposite. The world today has strategies of putting people to shame, it knows how to silent people and to enslave them. It is enough just to put you into the newspapers with some shameful titles and we are already crippled and enslaved. We know David was right therefore.  Look to God that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush for shame. In this place, in these days, may dear God give that the eyes of our spirit our opened so we would meet His gaze and go home without bondages. Free. Not ashamed and with joy on our faces. Amen.