General Intentions: For an end to the injustice of exploitation. For the redemption of structures that enable the powerful to abuse the Earth, bind women and children in sexual slavery, promote pornography, and deprive workers of just wages. For the spread of an integral ecology that protects nature, promotes the dignity of the human person, and seeks the common good.
Particular Intentions: For those people known to us who suffer from exploitation, and in reparation for our sinful overconsumption, wastefulness, and participation in systems of exploitation. For those who work to save the Earth and relieve the suffering of exploited persons, animals, and ecosystems.
Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)
O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.
Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.
The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
First Reading: Isaiah 58:1-14
Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?
Second Reading: St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on I Thessalonians
And what is the specious plea of the many [for loving wealth]? I have children, one says, and I am afraid lest I myself be reduced to the extremity of hunger and want, lest I should stand in need of others. I am ashamed to beg. For that reason therefore do you cause others to beg? I cannot, you say, endure hunger. For that reason do you expose others to hunger? Do you know what a dreadful thing it is to beg, how dreadful to be perishing by hunger? Spare also your brethren! Are you ashamed, tell me, to be hungry, and are you not ashamed to rob? Are you afraid to perish by hunger, and not afraid to destroy others? And yet to be hungry is neither a disgrace nor a crime; but to cast others into such a state brings not only disgrace, but extreme punishment.
Third Reading: Pope Francis, from Laudato Si, #66
The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence. This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.
As the people of Israel were preparing to enter the Promised Land, the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and directed that every fiftieth year should be a year of jubilee: “On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines.” (Leviticus 25: 9-11)
The jubilee year was a prescription for restoring social and religious equilibrium to the social system. Beginning on the Day of Atonement, it restored worship, the right relationship between Israel and the God who had brought them safely into Canaan. As a year of relief from debts, bondage, and familial estrangement, it restored justice, the right relationship between men and women. And as a year of letting the fields rest from sowing and reaping, it restored ecology, the right relationship between the people and the earth.
The year of grand jubilee was echoed by a minor sabbatical “jubilee” declared every seven years. The function of this jubilee was also the restoration of equilibrium: “For six years you may sow your land and gather in its produce. But the seventh year you shall let the land lie untilled and unharvested, that the poor among you may eat of it and the beasts of the field may eat what the poor leave …” (Exodus 23:10-11) and, “At the end of every seven-year period you shall have a relaxation of debts, which shall be observed as follows. Every creditor shall relax his claim on what he has loaned his neighbor; he must not press his neighbor, his kinsman, because a relaxation in honor of the LORD has been proclaimed.” (Deuteronomy 15:1-2)To be sure, the biblical evidence suggests that the people of Israel were less than faithful in observing both the minor and major jubilee years. Down through the centuries, the prophets routinely chastised Israel and her leaders for failing to observe the prescriptions of the Lord, including the practice of jubilee. It is against that backdrop that Isaiah puts these words on the lips of his prophesied Messiah, words Jesus himself would announce in the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lords favor.” (Isaiah 61: 1-2)
Only by restoring right relationships between humanity and the earth, God and man, and human beings themselves will the global system, now so out of control, be restored to balance. The practice of jubilee is at the heart of an “integral ecology,” and it is not intended just for the mighty and powerful of the world, those who command nations, far-flung businesses, institutions or social movements. It is also intended for each of us in a profoundly personal way.
Holy Mary, Undoer of Knots
Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in our lives. You know how deeply implicated we are bound to structures of exploitation, to the social and personal tangles of sinfulness that keep us from imitating you. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today these knots and free us!
Lord Jesus, you came to set captives free and reconcile all creation with the Father. Give us the vision to see the unjust systems that lie behind our everyday comforts and conveniences. Give us ears to hear the groans of women, children, the poor, and the earth itself. Fill us with a holy indignation at the injustice of exploitation, the courage to change ourselves and to challenge others, and peace in knowing that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.
Work of Mercy
“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James, 2:16-17
In reparation for the injustice of exploitation, perform one of these works of mercy: find an opportunity to instruct others on the reality of sex trafficking; reduce your carbon footprint by walking or biking instead of driving, or by turning off your air conditioning; educate yourself about the exploitation of labor at the heart of the fashion, electronics, and food industries, and resolve to change your consumption patterns.
St. Peter Claver, “Slave of the Slaves,” was born at Verdu, Catalonia, Spain, in 1580, of impoverished parents descended from ancient and distinguished families. He studied at the Jesuit college of Barcelona, entered the Jesuit novitiate at Tarragona in 1602 and took his final vows on August 8th, 1604. While studying philosophy at Majorca, the young religious was influenced by St. Alphonsus Rodriguez to go to the Indies and save “millions of perishing souls.”
In 1610, he landed at Cartagena (modern Colombia), the principle slave market of the New World, where a thousand slaves were landed every month. After his ordination in 1616, he dedicated himself by special vow to the service of the Negro slaves-a work that was to last for thirty-three years. He labored unceasingly for the salvation of the African slaves and the abolition of the Negro slave trade, and the love he lavished on them was something that transcended the natural order.
Boarding the slave ships as they entered the harbor, he would hurry to the revolting inferno of the hold, and offer whatever poor refreshments he could afford; he would care for the sick and dying, and instruct the slaves through Negro catechists before administering the Sacraments. Through his efforts three hundred thousand souls entered the Church. Furthermore, he did not lose sight of his converts when they left the ships, but followed them to the plantations to which they were sent, encouraged them to live as Christians, and prevailed on their masters to treat them humanely. He died in 1654. Learn more about St. Peter Claver here.
Dr. Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental activist, women’s rights advocate, and her country’s assistant minister of environment, natural resources and wildlife. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, the first African woman so honored. Maathai was educated in the United States, but returned to live and work in Kenya, where she was frequently the target of political violence. Her life’s project was to end the devastation of Kenya’s forests and lands caused by development, and provide opportunities for women and girls. In 1977, she launched the Green Belt Movement to reforest her beloved country while helping the nation’s women. The movement has been responsible for the planting of more than 30 million trees in Kenya and has provided roughly 30,000 women with new skills and opportunities. Dr. Maathai died in 2011 of cancer. Her story is here.