Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 10, 1968
Cesar Chavez ends 25-day Fast
During the 1960s, Latino and Asian workers at California’s grape farms faced brutal conditions. While at work, farm workers had no access to toilets or clean water and were often exposed to dangerous pesticides. Wages were low and workers had no access to health care. Labor contracts allowed farm owners to fire employees at will.
In 1965, organizers were inspired by the non-violent protests of the civil rights movement in the South, and started a strike among grape farm workers. One of the organizers of this strike, Cesar Chavez, consolidated a number of local organizations of farm workers into the United Farm Workers union and became the symbol of the movement.
In March of 1966, striking Farm Workers were subjected to physical and verbal attacks throughout their peaceful demonstrations, and on March 16, the Senate Subcommittee on Migratory Labor held hearings in Delano. The morning following the hearings, Cesar Chavez set out with 100 farm workers to begin his pilgrimage to the San Joaquin Valley. After 25 days, their numbers swelled from hundreds, to an army of thousands. On Easter Sunday, with public sympathy mounting and the spring growing season upon them, growers finally agreed to meet with union representatives.
Despite these meetings, owners of grape farms refused to comply with the farm workers’ requests, causing the strike to continue for years. During this time, farm workers conducted marches and organized national grape boycotts. Additionally, in February 1968, Cesar Chavez began a fast to draw attention to the plight of farm workers and illustrate his commitment to nonviolent protest. Mr. Chavez’s fast lasted 25 days and he lost 35 pounds, going from 175 to 140 pounds. He repeatedly ignored warnings from doctors who told him that permanent kidney damage would result from his actions.
Mr. Chavez’s fast attracted national attention, and on March 10, 1968, at the end of 25 days of fasting, a number of national labor leaders, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and hundreds of Latino farm workers attended a ceremony marking the end of the fast.
In 1970, California grape growers signed the first union contracts with farm workers.
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: JAMES 5:1-6
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.”
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day10
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: PRAYER OF THE FARM WORKER’S STRUGGLE (Cesar E. Chavez)
Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.
Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.
-Written by César E. Chávez, UFW Founder (1927-1993)