The prophet’s promise of light is a promise of life. Mother Mary labors through the night to deliver to us the fulfillment of that promise: Jesus, the one who sees us and loves us and affirms us fully.
I’m writing this on Christmas Eve.
I’ve been wrestling for days to get words down. For a while I thought I had some kind of writer’s burnout – the after effects of an intense semester of divinity school. I impressed myself with what I took on the last couple of months: I challenged Aquinas’ views on hell and wrote a Queer exegesis on the open lines of Song of Songs. I’ve been proud of myself and my writing lately, and so given what I had already tackled, writing a little snippet about my wayward journey through life as a gay catholic shouldn’t be too hard. And yet I’ve been staring into the white void of an empty word document for days trying to conjure the words behind the piercing silence.
I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, too depressed to make it to mass. Too tired and embarrassed to call anyone for help; hoping that maybe a subtle message via text or on social media might encourage a friend to pick up the phone and check in. But instead, I sit in more silence.
Noche Buena, as Christmas Eve is called in Spanish, is supposed to be a good night, an exciting night, the night that our Blessed Mother Mary enters into labor, and through the pain of it all, brings forth light: the infant Christ. We’re to wake up on Christmas morning and rejoice with the Holy Family and the rag tag group of strange characters that begin to gather – shepherds from the hills, and eventually magicians from the east. But this night feels far from good, and I feel no gleeful anticipation for what Christmas will bring.
You see, about 16 months ago I finally came out to the Matriarch of my family: my Grandmother, a stern Puerto Rican woman. As Catholic as the pillars that uphold the Vatican, she raised me with an unwavering faith in God and a deep sense of fidelity to her and to Holy Mother Church. Coming out to her obliterated our relationship. I had failed as a Catholic man in the only way that seemed to matter. Others in the family seemed to agree with her. It was a slow-moving pestilence that eventually took over and left me incredibly alone and depressed.
The Christmas that immediately followed was painful, but I was distracted. I spent Christmas eve with the guy I had been dating at the time, and Christmas day with friends. This year I’m living in a whole new place, where all of my friends have left town for the holiday. This year, there are no distractions from the immense pain caused by being outcasted by my family. This year there are no crowds to get lost in. CrossFit was only momentarily distracting, and you can honestly only binge so much Netflix before your emotions are the only thing actually streaming through your mind.
The cloud of depression has been creeping up on me for days, but the downpour came on the holiest of nights. Joy and peace to people of good will is supposed to be the vibe right now, but instead I feel overwhelmed and anxious, alone and abandoned. People that I love found it so easy to scoff at me and then disappear, simply for saying the words, “I am gay.”
Far too often this has also been the response of the place we call, Holy Mother Church. The doors to the sanctuary are barred, our presence at the altar no longer welcomed. Christmas, as a result, becomes a heavy and painful time of year. Instead of a time meant to be about rejoicing in the birth of Jesus and in the coming together of family, it becomes a time of deep heartache.
The holidays aren’t easy, because it highlights the reality for many of us who have found ourselves pushed out of our families and our communities for our queerness. Finding a way forward, with this reality, isn’t easy. Holding on to hope isn’t easy.
And yet the prophet Isaiah writes this,
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” (Isaiah 9:2 NASB)
The prophet Isaiah promises us this: that for those of us who have to walk through the darkness of rejection and marginalization, a light will shine, and way forward will be made. I hold on to this knowing that although the thought of living makes me shudder, it is the only way. Choosing life is the power to overcome the darkness of familial rejection. The prophet’s promise of light is a promise of life. Mother Mary labors through the night to deliver to us the fulfillment of that promise: Jesus, the one who sees us and loves us and affirms us fully.
To all my LGBTQ+ siblings, I want you to know this: you are not alone. I am here with you. We are all here with you. Light will shine, a way forward will be made, and your alleluia will return to you. Don’t lose hope. Let us hold on to hope together.