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Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Ultimate Thanksgiving

The word Eucharist means “to give thanks.” And so as we in the United States of America pause to celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving, Catholic ecologists can also reflect on and give thanks for how their vocation is informed by their Eucharistic faith.

We turn especially to Pope Benedict XVI’s Sacramentum Caritatis. As posted earlier, this “apostolic exhortation” explores a great many facets of the Catholic Eucharistic faith—including ecology.

This one passage strikes me as especially important on Thanksgiving 2012: 
The Eucharist itself powerfully illuminates human history and the whole cosmos. In this sacramental perspective we learn, day by day, that every ecclesial event is a kind of sign by which God makes himself known and challenges us. The eucharistic form of life can thus help foster a real change in the way we approach history and the world. The liturgy itself teaches us this, when, during the presentation of the gifts, the priest raises to God a prayer of blessing and petition over the bread and wine, "fruit of the earth," "fruit of the vine" and "work of human hands." With these words, the rite not only includes in our offering to God all human efforts and activity, but also leads us to see the world as God's creation, which brings forth everything we need for our sustenance. 
Quite briefly, this reminds Catholics—and anyone open to such ideas—that ultimately it will not be us, our governments’ mandates, or ongoing public service announcements that will change the human heart in the ways necessary to stem the swiftly advancing tide of ecological harm.

For instance, material consumption—which will spike here in America tomorrow on the culturally-sanctioned day of gluttony known as “BlackFriday”—cannot be appropriately addressed through legislation. Excessive consumption comes from an absence of the peace of Christ, of the Love that has no limit. Thus the cure is not civil mandates but the love of God—a love made present physically and intimately, which is what the Eucharist is. 

I am continually more convinced that our modern ills will find resolution only in Christ, His Cross, and the sacramental grace that He offers. This is why the presence of a section on ecology within a document like Sacramentum Caritatis is so wonderfully helpful.

And so on this Thanksgiving, I offer my great thanks to the Holy Father for his continued leadership and example in environmental protection and education. I give thanks also to the many bishops, clergy, lay leaders and so many other Catholics that strive to bring an orthodox sense of Catholic ecology to the public square, the classroom, and the pulpit.

And of course, the ultimate thanks goes to God, Who is Love and the Source of all that is.

May His grace continue to flow into human history—and may we humans accept this offer, most especially in the Eucharist, so that we can do our share, in gratitude, to renew the face of the earth.

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