What’s Missing in the Eucharistic Revival

Without a sincere note of repentance for not only our sins but the sins of previous generations of Catholics, we stand very little chance of experiencing the genuine renewal our nation so desperately needs.

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The idea of a national Eucharistic revival is a great thing. We can and should emphasize the Eucharist, the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith (Sacrosanctum Concilium 11, 14). We can and should bear witness to our faith that the Eucharist truly is the presence of Christ, and everything that presence means.

But there is a note missing in the national discussion, which precedents of renewal in Scripture can help us see and, perhaps, remedy. To see this, we can turn to the much-neglected books of Ezra-Nehemiah, which record various attempts to restore Israel after the Babylonian Exile.

Arguably central to Ezra-Nehemiah are two prayers, in Ezra 9:6-15 and Nehemiah 9:6-37. These prayers summarize the preceding history of Israel, but they also encourage the would-be restorationists to identify with, and repent for, the sins of their ancestors. 

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Ezra seems to recognize that past sins have consequences that reach into the present and even into the future—but, also, that God’s grace can mitigate those consequences in response to His people’s repentance. 

If we examine our collective, national conscience, our prayers should be more like Ezra’s than most of us are comfortable admitting.

The Catholic Church in this country has a mixed record on almost every major issue. While there have been some standout bishops and lay leaders, our Church’s leadership has often failed to give a united, forthright witness to the Gospel in the face of an indifferent and materialistic culture. 

Of course, the abuse crisis and cover-up represent a profound betrayal not only of vulnerable parishioners and their families but of the Gospel itself (see Matthew 18:6). And on both of our nation’s most serious human-rights issues—abortion and chattel slavery—the attitude of Catholics has been roughly the same as everyone else. Many bishops’ reluctance to call Catholics to account for their unconverted minds (cf. Romans 12:2)—and admit their own culpability in the ongoing crisis—is not unique to this age but, rather, seems largely to be par for the course among American hierarchs (as depicted, for instance, in Russell Shaw’s American Church, from Ignatius Press).

As Jesus foretold, there have been among us both sheep and goats (see Matthew 25:31-46). From a biblically-informed perspective, the trials our Church is enduring today are the legacy both of our own sinfulness and that of our ancestors in the Faith.

As our nation progresses toward the end of our three-year Eucharistic revival, we may want to take a hint from the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah. These prophets suggest that without a sincere note of repentance for not only our sins but the sins of previous generations of Catholics, we stand very little chance of experiencing the genuine renewal our nation so desperately needs. As our nation progresses toward the end of our three-year Eucharistic revival, we may want to take a hint from the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah.Tweet This

So far, most of us have seen little emphasis on repentance for sin in promotions for the Eucharistic revival. As Corpus Christi 2024 and the national Eucharistic Congress approach, instead of complaining about this or other failures on the part of the renewal’s organizers, perhaps each of us individually can do our part.

To begin, for instance, we can make Ezra’s prayer our own (cf. Ezra 9:6-15), and pray it with sincere regret for sin that has “mounted up to heaven” (Ezra 9:6). The prayer begins:

O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt; and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as at this day. (Ezra 9:6-7)

We must resist the temptation to see this sin as that of “others”; Ezra, a righteous man, identifies himself with the guilty. In this sense of collective responsibility, we see a shadow of the reality we currently experience in the Church, the Body of Christ (see Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi 46).

While embracing it may be uncomfortable, this biblical precedent may help us make true progress toward renewal. Without it, we may do well to expect all our hard work to bear little fruit.

Author

  • Ryan Patrick Budd

    Ryan Patrick Budd is a scholar in residence and research assistant to Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and author of the forthcoming book Salvation Stories: Family, Failure, and God’s Saving Work in Scripture from Emmaus Road Publications.

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