The gift of the land

Today is the feast of Saint Isidore the Farmworker, who lived and worked the land near Madrid.

Not much is known about his life but maybe what is important about him for us is his work on the land.

Procession, San Isidro La Cueva, 2013

Procession, San Isidro La Cueva, 2013

He was a farmworker – so poor that he worked for a landowner, as so many people do these days in places like Honduras.

Some campesinos here don’t have enough money to buy land, or the land is overpriced, or large landowners buy up most of the land and use it for grazing cattle or growing cash crops. All too often those who work the land don’t have access to land where they can grown corn and beans for their families.

A few decades ago, the Guatemalan bishops wrote a prophetic pastoral letter, The Cry of the Land. Here are a few excerpts.

We belong to the earth (Gen 2:7) and it belongs to us because when the Lord created us, he charged us to till it and care for it (Gen 2:15). Thus, work in agriculture appears the quintessential task by which we situate ourselves in the world and before God.

Many scriptural texts express joy at the fruit of our fatiguing labor on the land and our thanksgiving for God’s blessing. When the land bears a crop, we know that God blesses us (Ps 67:7; 85:13)….

The land does not belong to us, but to God, and what each calls property is in reality the portion needed to live. ‘The land and all in it, the world and those who inhabit it, belong to God” (Ps 24:1)….

In Recife, Brazil, [Pope] John Paul II told the farmers: “The land is a gift from God, a gift for all human beings, men and women, who are called to be united in a single family and related to one another in a fraternal spirit. Therefore, it is not legitimate, because it is not according to God’s design, to use this gift so that its fruits benefit only a few, excluding others, who form the immense majority.”

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