It shall be a jubilee for you.
Leviticus 25: 10
Today’s first reading from Leviticus is part of the call for a year of Jubilee every fifty years, when “each of you shall return to your own property, each of you to your own family.” Debts would be forgiven, the enslaved (probably because of debts) would be freed, and the land would be returned to its original owners.
It is not clear if this was ever practiced in ancient Israel, but it is a clear case of God’s will for equity, for a just society.
People will make mistakes and have to sell their land or sell themselves into servitude in order to make ends meet. People will be subjected to harsh natural conditions and natural disasters will drive people off their land. People will suffer from the greed of some who wish to buy up all the land to enrich themselves.
But God wants equity; he wants to restore the original equity among the people which, according to the Torah, was the original condition of the People of God in the promised land.
As I read the passage this morning, I was reminded of the passage from Micah 4:3-4:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks…
They shall all sit under their own vines,
under their own fig trees, undisturbed…
The Vision of the Peaceable Kingdom, found also in chapter 2 and 11 of Isaiah, is a call to return to the peace of Paradise, where there is harmony between people and all the rest of God’s creation.
These readings are a challenge to the nations of the world, where inequality reigns, where desire for more moves some to massive accumulation.
I live in a country where many of those who would like to work do not have land of their own and where a few people own much of the land.
Today’s reading is a challenge which, unfortunately, few Christians take into account. Satisfied with giving gifts to the poor, they fail to see the roots of poverty in their own greed and accumulation, in the structures of society which enable massive accumulation.
It would be interesting if someone tried to change things. Land reform is needed – and has happened in a few places in the world. But often those who cry out for real land reform end up like St. John the Baptist – with their heads cut off, or shot as they try nonviolently to defend their land.
But Leviticus 25 seems to be calling for just such reforms.
May God give us the courage to promote these efforts which will help bring liberty to the oppressed.