Today I was a very angry and frustrated guy. My mum had to go into surgery and hospital for a giant abscess. Christmas lunch with the family was cancelled.
My family is not very close, so Christmas is the ONE time of year that we eat together as a family, and now my parents are separated it is even more special. So you can understand my disappointment.
But I was also angry, very angry with my mum. She does not look after her health, and a part of me was blaming her for ruining my Christmas - which is totally unfair.
So I was feeling very grinch like this Christmas eve. I went for a siesta, hoping to wake up sometime around lunchtime. But I ended up waking up about 8pm, so still had enough time to get ready and get to midnight mass.
Before mass there was carols as well as the rosary, A priest was next door hearing confessions. I have not prayed the rosary in a long time, but it felt good. It felt familiar and something that I had missed.
During the rosary I had an overwhelming desire to be able to have Holy Communion during Mass. But I was not in a state of grace, and had not been to confession in almost 3 years since I have began living a gay lifestyle.
I have spent so much time telling myself that confession is pointless, because I do not plan on changing my lifestyle and therefore do not want to have a sacrilegious confession. But I wanted to receive communion so bad. I was conflicted whether or not to go to confession or not. But I wanted Jesus is Holy Communion, I needed him. A spiritual communion was not enough for what my soul was needing at this point in time.
So I went to confession. I was rather nervous and scared, because it has been a long time. Also it was at a Latin Mass, so the priests often tend to be more serious about sin. I was worried the priest would be harsh, or possibly deny me absolution (I had a bad experience with that years ago from a well meaning but misguided conservative priest).
I knelt at the confessional and started "Forgive me Father it has been about 3 years since my last confession..."
Father replies "Praise God!!"
Well that was not the response I was expecting!! He was so welcoming to me and gentle. I had spent so much time telling myself how I do not deserve God's forgiveness because I am not contrite, or I am not ready to change my lifestyle. But I forgot that like the prodigal son - God is always waiting with outstretched arms, the same arms that were outstretched on the cross.
I explained to the priest that I often felt angry with God and rejected by the church, and this causes me to not try and be pure or frequent the sacraments anymore. Then he told me something very beautiful and powerful: he said that the mystery of the Incarnation means that Christ was born for ME, for each one of us. He said that even if no one else existed but me, Christ would still have been born for me, because he loves me and wants to be with me. He went through the agony on the cross for me, and me specifically. THIS IS THE BEAUTY OF THE INCARNATION. It is something I have always know intellectually, but it never touched my heart.
As father absolved me while I was making my act of contrition, I wanted to cry. God's mercy and forgiveness was so freely given to me, no matter how unworthy I felt. Christ was born for me and died for me. The only person stopping God;s forgiveness, was me.
Father asked me if I was staying for mass, to which I replied YES, I confessed so I could receive communion. Then he said something strange, he told me that my penance would be to receive communion.
I had never heard of that before. But i was so happy I was absolved and I was able to receive communion I did not care.
The irony is, I had been trying to punish myself by denying myself God's grace, God's forgiveness - I had been denying myself Jesus. Yet my penance was to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. My symbolic act of penance to finalise being in a state of Grace, was actually the very thing that would give me Sanctifying Grace - Jesus born for us and substantially present in the Eucharist.
When I had communion I got this lovely visual image in my head. As the host dissolved on my tongue, and I meditated on Jesus now physically present and united to me. I got an image of the infant Jesus, making his home, asleep and bundled within my heart. Similar to the image of St Gertrude with Jesus in her heart. The Beauty and the Mystery of the Incarnation - the Word made flesh, so that our flesh could become one with His and have Divine life. Or as St Athanasius said "God became man, so that man might become God"'
Praise God. I wish you all a very happy, safe, and blessed Christmas no matter who you are or where you are.