During our three year Eucharistic revival in the United States, we know that we need stronger faith in the Eucharist. I wonder, however, if it will be hard to strengthen the faith of Catholics if we do not truly embody what we believe. Words alone will not suffice. We must manifest what we believe by our actions and live out our faith more robustly. Jesus gave us the Eucharist to transform us into his body and to be a leaven for the whole world. The Eucharist is a call to mission to spread the Gospel and renew our civilization.
Who can save civilization? There is only one person ultimately who can do it: God, who has made Himself present to us in the Incarnation and continues to do so in the Eucharist. He is the answer and remedy for every problem that society and man faces. The difficulty is, however, that Jesus does not necessarily want to save civilization. He does not care about all of the structures that we have built up per se. He cares about each and every soul living in the world. He did not come into the world for the sake of civilization. He came into the world for our sake.
He does want us, through the power of His grace, to do our part in serving others and building up a world that focuses more on what truly matters. As we have seen in Jesus’s teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, if we focus on God first, then everything else will fall into place. The Eucharist can help us to save the world, although not in the way we may expect. We should not care about civilizations for their own sake—the power and wealth of nations—but as a vehicle for making the world more human in the truest sense: a civilization of love that promotes the true flourishing of the human person. It is not that civilization doesn’t matter. It is true, of course, that a good civilization should help us to live a good life and a bad one will do the opposite. Christians do, therefore, need to work to transform the world in Christ. Salvation, however, remains our first priority, and only through union with Christ will our work have effect in changing the world.
It may sound overly pious to point to the Eucharist as the means of healing and rebuilding civilization, although what could serve as a more powerful source than God’s own presence in the world? The Mass, therefore, lays out its own plan for renewal. The Eucharist literally contains what is most needed for renewal—in our own lives, yes, but also for our society. It is a real plan. How did Christians withstand the Roman Empire? How did we rebuild culture in the Dark Ages? What stood in the center of the culture of Christendom? Why has the Church not simply died out under the persecutions of countless modern revolutions, like so many had predicted? In all of these cases, there is the same answer, one which we could still say to the world, quoting Jesus’s enigmatic saying to His disciples: “I have food to eat of which you do not know” (Jn 4:32). This is the food that gives life, a life that the world does not know about but which it desperately needs.
The Eucharist is the greatest force for change. It can and will alter us into other Christs for the world. We are not simply individuals, however, no matter how much the world tells us that we are autonomous. By eating this hidden food, God changes us so that we can, in turn, change the world, spreading the Gospel to every corner of society, not for the glory of the Church or any nation, but for the good of all people. Civilization is not simply the external mechanisms of a society. It is made up of all those living within it. Civilization can be saved by changing and transformation those living within it, by a creative minority or the conversion of multitudes. By transforming our lives, He will begin the work of transforming our family, our parish, our work, and, over time, even our civilization.
The Eucharist truly provides life for our soul and our way of life, or “culture.” It is not enough to believe in the Eucharist, or even to receive this sacrament regularly. Jesus wants the Eucharist to reshape our humanity, to transform who we are and how we live every day, and even to save our civilization. This Eucharistic revival is a time not just to strengthen our belief. It is a time to begin living the Eucharist as the center of our lives. This will set a whole process of transformation in motion in the world, driven from the Lord’s presence within us.
How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization is available from TAN Books.