April 2016

Small Farmers: That small farmers may receive a just reward for their precious labor.

Seventy-two percent of the world’s farms are less than 2.5 acres in size.  In the U.S., 90 percent of the 2.1 million farms are considered small, family farms, and many of them are struggling.

Though prices have gone up in supermarkets, the income of farmers has not. As a result, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the largest job loss of any occupation is farmers. When the small farms go out of business, often large agri-businesses acquire the land and create greater potential for ecological damage and health risks. For example, a single fast food hamburger may contain meat from more than a hundred different cattle.

For Pope Francis small farmers are essential to caring for the earth and safeguarding it for future generations. He said that “in the work of farmers there is the acceptance of the precious gift of the land which comes to us from God, but there is also its appreciation in the equally precious work of men and women, called to respond to the mandate of tilling and safeguarding the land (Genesis 2: 15).” 

Agricultural workers should receive a just wage. As the pope said, “The labor of those who cultivate the earth, generously dedicating time and energy to it, appears as a genuine vocation. It deserves to be recognized and appropriately appreciated, also in concrete economic policies.”

With the coming of spring, we pray for those on small farms who are busy planting. May they not only have an abundant harvest this year but also “receive a just reward for their precious labor.” 

Besides a greater concern for the land, what other values do family farms contribute to the good of society?

 2 Timothy 2: 6  “The hardworking farmer ought to have the first share of the crop.”

African Christians: That Christians in Africa may give witness to love and faith in Jesus Christ amid political-religious conflicts.

With over 420 million Christians (38.3 percent of the population), Africa is the fastest growing continent for Christianity. It is also a place where many Christians are threatened with violence.  In 2013 in Kenya, where 60 percent of the population is Christian, a terrorist group attacked a shopping mall and killed 67 people. Last April the same group killed 148 mostly Christian students at Garissa University College.

In November Pope Francis visited African countries beset by violence with a message of reconciliation.

He told the bishops of Kenya that the Church “must always be true to her mission as an instrument of reconciliation, justice, and peace. May you strengthen your commitment to working with Christian and non-Christian leaders alike, in promoting peace and justice in your country through dialogue, fraternity, and friendship. In this way you will be able to offer a more unified and courageous denunciation of all violence, especially that committed in the name of God.”

He went on to say that “the united and selfless efforts of many Catholics in Kenya are a beautiful witness and example for the country. In so many ways, the Church is called to offer hope to the broader culture, a hope based on her unstinting witness to the newness of life promised by Christ in the Gospel.”

We have just celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus, recalling that the hatred that killed him was infinitely less powerful than his love. Convinced of that love, we pray that our African brothers and sisters may give witness to it amidst their struggles.

How have I experienced the fact that love is the only force capable of changing the world for good?

Romans 12: 9-21  “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”