Reflection for March 20, 2022 – Third Sunday of Lent

Readings: Exodus 3:1-8A, 13-15; Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:1-9

[…] let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down. — (Luke 13:8-9)

Solidarity takes time

It is easy to dismiss something that is not doing what we want it to do. Seeing that the tree was not serving its purpose, producing fruit, was enough for the owner to decide to replace it. However, the gardener knew that not only did the existing tree have value and deserve nurturing, but also that it was risky to replace it without understanding why it was struggling. If the problem was in the soil, a newly planted tree could have been similarly affected.

Cultivating healthy communities, like cultivating healthy plants, requires an understanding of the context in which they live. Like soil quality for plants, an analysis of the social, political, economic and ecological realities can help us find where communities’ problems lie and what types of interventions are needed. Just as watering a plant would not work if the soil itself was contaminated, “development” support like education or food aid would not help a community much if it was at risk of being forced off its land.

Poverty in today’s world is not natural and is not simple. There are no quick and easy solutions, as poverty is perpetuated by a global order that prioritizes the profit of a few over the well-being of all. This same order serves the comfort and convenience of some by displacing, abusing and diminishing others. The only way to address these complex systems of oppression is to eliminate the distinction between “us” and “them,” and that is the work of solidarity.

Solidarity means working together as partners and sharing in joys and struggles as we address issues that affect us all. It is taking on others’ challenges as our own even when we do not directly feel the impacts of an issue or the benefits of our actions. Solidarity takes time. Solidarity takes hope. Solidarity takes persistence. We may not often see immediate results from our work, but we do see signs; and we must keep cultivating the Kingdom that we pray for so often.

Over the past 15 years, Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada has been working to address one of the drivers of poverty to which Canadians are particularly close: the disrespect of human and environmental rights by companies operating in the Global South. For decades, local communities and international observers have been denouncing many Canadian companies and their subsidiaries for unethical behaviours that have included displacing communities; avoiding responsibility for the environmental and social impacts of their operations (including the poisoning of waterways and agricultural land); and violence against local leaders who stand up for the rights of their communities. And yet, Canada still lacks a law that would require Canadian companies to prevent human rights abuses throughout their operations overseas. The Canadian Ombudsperson still lacks the powers to properly investigate complaints. And so, we persist in calling for change, with hope and determination, trusting that “the Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.” (Psalm 103:6)

We are enjoined at the end of mass to go out and live the Gospel in our lives. Join us in doing this, as we emulate the gardener in the parable and “dig around” the issue of injustice to cultivate a more just world, where all persons can live in dignity.

Start today: sign our petition for corporate due diligence laws, if you have not already. Share it with your friends, family, community and, importantly, your Member of Parliament. Listen to the stories of our partners in the field on our site and witness their signs of hope.

A year ago, few in Canada had even heard the term “human rights and environmental due diligence.” Today, a bill to implement it is before the House of Commons, and thousands of you have joined the call. It is not too late. Together, we will continue in solidarity.

Kathleen Cross, Orientation Assembly Manager, Development and Peace – Caritas Canada

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