It was a debate, a debate that dominated my prayer the night before, my getting ready the day of, and the drive there on that day. Was I really in a state of being that was unworthy of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist? My desire for Him was and is so great…but not great enough, apparently, to keep me out of such sin. If I’m being honest, it broke my heart. How could I be in this place? My foolish pride tried to convince me that it was okay, that I could still approach His table with this sin on my soul. I tried to convince myself that I needed the grace of communion, but that was a flawed logic, and I knew it. If I needed the grace so desperately, why then couldn’t I avoid the sin? Who was I to approach Him, however humbled, and receive His holy, unblemished body into my flawed one? Besides, if I didn’t deny myself communion (and rightfully so), would I ever really learn that my actions have consequences?
There I stood, crossing my arms over my heart before the Eucharistic Jesus, barring the gates of my heart.
It felt a bit like Hester Prynne, actually. As I crossed my arms over my heart, the physical sign showed what had happened in my heart: I chose my own will over God’s, barring Him from entering into my heart, calling me to holiness. Instead of opening myself to Him, I chose sin, freely and consciously. As with the Eucharist, the physical sign expresses a deeper reality. Crossing my arms showed my stubbornness and the fact that I had closed my heart and separated myself from the grace of God by sin. I stood in the communion line just like everyone else and genuflected like I normally did, but then I stood and placed my arms over my heart and wanted to cry. The blessing of the priest was, dare I say, lack luster when compared with the glory of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, but I had made my choice and now I had to deal with the consequences.
I could have received. I could have let pride get the better of me. Besides, no one can really judge my heart besides me and God. Who is anyone else to judge? I could have laid my arms down at my side and received His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity into my weakened flesh. I could have. But I also would not have learned. I would not have seen the weight of my choices, the weight of my sin, and the pain they bring. I would not have seen – in however painful a way it was – that my choices can and do separate me from complete intimacy with God. In communion we receive Him into our bodies to nourish and sustain us, what on earth could be more intimate than that?
The choice, as always, is ours. Ours is the choice to sin or not to sin. Ours is the choice to receive or not to receive. Ours in the choice to separate ourselves from His love or not. Ours is the choice to cross our hearts or to open them to His love.