Agricultural Rich World / Poor World
Season of Creation Reflection #3
In this weekend’s Gospel reading, we hear the parable of the vineyard owner who employs different people at different times of the day. Some employees work the full day, others only half the day, but at the end of the day everyone gets paid the same salary.
There are perhaps two ways we can connect this parable to our reflections on the Season of Creation. The first way is to examine our modern agricultural practices and their impact on the global food crisis.
Today, we hear much about the plight of seasonal agricultural workers, the removal of land tenure rights and income inequality in our agricultural processes. Our modern agricultural processes have a large footprint both on the landscape, through monocropping (leading to habitat destruction) and factory-style animal husbandry (leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions). Our modern food production practices are leading to increasing biodiversity loss, the alienation of people from food sources and at the same time increasing global hunger.
The second way we can look at this weekend’s Gospel is from the perspective of income inequality, both at home and further afield.
The vineyard owner in the parable deliberately employs all those looking for work. In our world today, so many people have to work more than one job just to make ends meet, or worse struggle to find work at all. We often hear of situations where workers are working long hours, for little reward while profits go back to making corporations richer. This is often at the expense of the earth and the poor. We are so often told that the richest 10% of the world hold 85% of the world’s wealth, while the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world's total wealth. A recent survey showed that the world’s ten richest people doubled their wealth over the past two years, while 99% of others’ income dropped.
The theme for Season of Creation 2023 is “Let justice and peace flow like a river”. One of the greatest injustices in our world is the global food crisis. The World Food Programme (WFT) estimates that 345 million people in 73 countries around the world are food insecure in 2023. And yet 17% of all food produced is dumped between harvest and retail.
Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, calls us to engage in “big picture thinking”. Like the vineyard owner, we are called to work for the common good, to have a preferential option for the poor, to raise their voices and the voice of the earth, the vineyard. The owner of the vineyard pays everyone the same, regardless of their work. What would our society look like if everyone was raised up and empowered? The more we can provide meaningful work with a just wage for all, the more everyone will feel included and can be given the opportunity to flourish.
In the first reading, the Israelites cry in hunger as they wander through the desert. Gid responds by sending them “manna from heaven”, reminding us that God has a plan to ensure our needs are met. May we always raise up the voices of the poor, who are bearing the brunt of the climate change and the global food crisis. May this weekend’s readings be a constant reminder that the Lord provides enough to satisfy all our needs and we have a responsibility to only consume our fair share. And finally, may we always be challenged to work and grow for the common good, to love God and our neighbour so that quality of life for all may improve.
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