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“I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it.”
This week we visit the Rametsi family, who live in Lesotho, a tiny country surrounded by South Africa. Although it has a population of only 2 million people, Lesotho has the third-highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. As a result, the number of orphaned children continues to rise and outpace communities’ ability to care for them. Chronic poor harvests and high prices mean most people struggle to feed their families.
Learn how Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Church in Lesotho are taking a rights-based, holistic approach to addressing the needs of these communities.
Programs in Lesotho reflect the church’s teaching that we must take responsibility to protect the rights of all people. These rights include the right to life, food, shelter, education, and employment, along with political and cultural rights.
In contrast to our culture that puts much stock in progress and has very little patience for mistakes or failures, Sunday’s Gospel on the parable of the fig tree provides a hopeful alternative. In God’s orchard there is patience, even with the little tree that doesn’t bear fruit as it should.
The gardener promises to cultivate and nurture the ground – such cultivation (breaking up the soil around us) and nurturing (or manuring) may not seem pleasant to us initially, but it is God’s way of calling us to grow.
In your prayer this week, consider the people who have cultivated and nurtured you through times of learning, failure or dry periods. Take stock of the gifts that you have been given – the good fruit that comes from your life of faith. These gifts were not meant to stop with you. Really, they are meant for others. As Christians we believe in our responsibility for the well-being of others, especially when their basic human rights are being compromised. Offer these gifts to God as your Lenten sacrifice, and in your prayer, ask that they be nurtured, tended to, graced and returned so that you can bear fruit in the world.
Fasting is often about giving something up. This week, consider reconfiguring your time to support an educational program in your community. You might give up a lunch break to read to children in a literacy program, volunteer at a school, give up some evening media time to tutor a child or adult, or help recent immigrant who is learning English.
Like the barren fig tree in Sunday’s Gospel, Rosa Maria Rametsi’s grandchildren are receiving a chance to have a fruitful future. Rosa Maria and her husband live in a small village in the mountains of Lesotho. They took in their six grandchildren after the children’s father died and their mother had to leave the village to look for work. The two youngest have been enrolled in an Early Childhood Care and Development Center run by the Good Shepherd Sisters.
Catholic Relief Services provides teachers with special training on working with young children. Already, Rosa Maria’s grandchildren, Malifomo, age 3, and Molefe, age 4, are learning to count, to recite vowels and to use bigger words in their sentences. They are teaching their grandparents the songs they learn at school, and they can say their prayers before meals.
Education is such a basic right, and the earlier it begins, the better a child’s chance for a promising future. Count up the schools that you have attended since you were a child. Did you attend a pre-school, a child-care or a kindergarten? Have you gone to college or achieved a post-graduate degree? Make a donation to your Rice Bowl for each grade you have attended over your lifetime.
Also, consider visiting the Catholics Confront Global Poverty Action Center to send a message to elected officials on behalf of your brothers and sisters in need.