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Ash and Oil: March 30

“O LORD, who may abide in your tent?

Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,

and speak the truth from their heart…”

(Psalm 15:1-2)

Tomorrow is César Chávez Day. In certain states across the United States, Chavez will be remembered and celebrated as a civil rights leader willing to expose an ugly truth: the oppression of migrant workers.

Chavez helped to expose the ways in which migrant workers were being exploited. In particular, in the 1980s, Chavez refused to eat for 36 days in order to draw attention to the devastating effects of the unquestioned use of pesticides on farms.

Chavez's main concern was the effect these pesticides were having on the human beings who were exposed to the toxic chemicals on a daily basis. The illness and death those chemicals caused were impossible to ignore. Unless, of course, you didn’t know a migrant worker. Then they were quite effortless to ignore. Chavez sought, through the prophetic activism of a hunger strike, to expose the truth that was kept hidden because of the marginalization and suppression of migrant workers in the United States.

Jesus paid attention to marginalized people. Jesus saw the suffering of groups who were “left out” in his time: women, lepers, Samaritans, tax collectors. Jesus came alongside those suffering people, and by drawing near to them, made them visible to a world that had ignored them. Jesus was about truth.

As Jesus followers, we are also people of truth. We are called to draw attention to the truth when we know it. We are called to bring to light that which has been hidden. We are called to name suffering and injustice so that others may notice it, and so that we might work toward changing it.

As we remember Chavez tomorrow, it’s worth noting that there are reports of a 125-percent increase in the use of pesticides in the last 25 years. It’s worth noting that many migrant farm workers are still robbed of wages and are kept in the shadows by a dysfunctional immigration system. It’s worth remembering that the struggle for justice is still happening. We’re still walking Chavez’s road. Truth telling isn’t simple, or swift, but it’s our calling as people who follow a crucified Christ who told the truth even when it led to a cross.

Pray: God, give us courage to bring to light the truth we see. May we be truth tellers both in actions and in words. And may your kingdom come quickly. Amen.

Take the Next Step: Before you eat today, pause to be mindful of all that it took to get the food to your plate: the seed, the soil, the sun, the water, the machines, the workers, the transporters, the marketers, the retailers. In your pre-meal prayers, pray for the welfare and protection of those that are made vulnerable in order to make such a meal possible.

[Image: Flickr user Zdenko Zivkovic]

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