A LITTLE TRIVIA to HELP FOCUS PRAYER
October 4 is the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Faustina whose name is forever linked to the feast of the Divine Mercy. It is also Fire Fighters Memorial Day and Respect Life Sunday. In the past month we experienced the Fall Equinox, when the sun slipped over that imaginary line we called the equator and the sun appears to be moving southward. Also, in the past month, the church celebrated the Fall Ember days – the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday following the feast of the Holy Cross. Ember Days were placed at the beginning of the traditional four seasons of the year for fasting, abstinence, and prayer to thank God for the gifts of nature and to bless the Fall crops. They were intended to teach us to exercise moderation in our consumption of the fruits of the fields and to come to the aid of the needy. Knowing this, we can begin to see the prudence of the liturgical commission in placing the “farmer” parables right now in cycle of readings.
This particular Gospel invites us once again to focus on agriculture – a familiar topic here in Florida. A little information (trivia?) in hopes it will help you realize the magnitude of a problem and the importance of the farming industry. In the latest statistics Google could find for me, 2017, Florida ranked first in the U.S. in value of production of cucumbers, grapefruit, tangerines and tangelos, oranges, squash, sugarcane, snap beans, and tomatoes. The state ranks second in production of bell peppers, strawberries, watermelons, cabbage and sweet corn. At that time (in 2017), Florida had 47,000 commercial farms and ranches, using a total of 9.5 million acres of land. Aquaponics and hydroponic farming are both on the rise in Florida with the Google map showing 20 licensed farms across central Florida. (Readers can go to our website to read about the Benedictine Sisters program coordinated by Sister Miriam Cosgrove. See www.benedictinesistersoffl.org)
I can see your wheels turning … “So, what is your point?” Well, maybe you’ve noticed that this is the third Sunday in a row that Jesus and Matthew have shared parables calling our attention to tilling the earth: the mustard seed, vineyards, lazy workers, late hires, wishy-washy sons, disappointed overseers and generous owners. We are invited to consider the difference in attitude between tenants and owners; sons and indentured servants; wise waiting for growth and rash action to weed out suspected imperfection.
We, here in fertile, though sometimes drought ridden, Pasco County can help us empathize with the farmers and ranchers in the fire-ravaged areas in California and the far west. Also, sense the feelings of desolation and devastation of farmers in the mid-West as they stand overwhelmed (once again) and survey their flooded acres and acres of lost crops. How do the people of India – second largest producer of wheat and rice, the world’s major food staples, recover when their prospect of annual income is washed away by the monsoons and the gushing waters from the dams that were opened upstream, miles away? And what are the ripple effects in our country and throughout the world?
How is it in the richest country in the world we see food sacristy and insecurity? Before the pandemic, in the U.S. more than 35 million people, including 10 million children, suffered from food insecurity, meaning they have uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life. Since the pandemic began more than 54 million people, including 18 million children, are experiencing food insecurity. Insufficient income, due to loss of employment and low wages, is a major cause of food insecurity. “Food deserts” are also a problem … lack of nearby food markets – and lack of transportation to food stores – especially for persons who are home bound or are not on public bus routes. Couple that with schools that are closed or families who choose to have virtual classes for their children.
Let’s look at our “back yard” here in Pasco County. 54% (or 42,000) of the children (in Pasco County) are eligible to receive free or reduced meals at school. Agencies and churches strive to staunch the tide of hunger and “fill tummies”: Daystar, Meals on Wheels, Pasco Feed, Suncoast, Homeless Ministries, Feeding Tampa Bay, others. There must be times when these volunteers feel like they are putting a finger in the dike only to watch another crack appear. Fear and anxiety weigh heavy on many: will their food stamps be cut off, will they lose rent subsidies, “my children – what will they eat tomorrow.”
The problem is HUGE. What can we do? More specifically, what can I do? Some simple things – (maybe they even sound simplistic) –
+ Be grateful for what we have; make do with what is available
+ Be conservative in purchasing; be patient when supplies run out
+ And, yes, pray! There is a saying, “When all else fails, pray.” But let’s don’t wait for “all else to fail” – pray for wisdom and discernment; examine where election candidates stand on issues – not just what they are saying, but what is their record, what are their actions telling you? Don’t be complacent or fail to exercise your right to vote. Be wise voters.
In Proverbs (4:6-7) we read: “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore, get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” We just celebrated our Guardian Angels (October 2nd) – call on yours for the gift of wisdom.
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
1st Reading: Isaiah 5:1-2 2nd Reading: Philippians 4:6-9 Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43