The following is a transcript of Bishop Carcaño’s address delivered on May 22, 2014 at CLUE-LA’s Giants of Justice 2014 Breakfast
May 22, 2014
Good morning friends. What a joy it is to start this day with all of you who are committed to economic justice; committed as people of faith to walk with workers and their families in their struggle for respect and dignity in the workplace and beyond. And what a great day to wake up to the music of Pete Seeger: The Hammer of Justice…..A Song of Love.
I was 12 years old when I first heard Seeger’s song of justice and love. It was at church camp. I had spent the summer picking cotton and cleaning tomato fields in order to raise enough money to go to camp with the kids from my church. Usually the money we made in the fields went completely to supporting the family. We needed it to survive. I am so grateful for my parent’s support that allowed me to go to camp that summer and learn about justice.
That summer I learned that economic justice is a matter of faith. I learned that we are all, every single one of us, of sacred worth; each created in the image and likeness of God. Each one of us is a part of God’s good creation. And, God has given us enough from the bounty of God’s own hand; enough food to feed everyone, enough resources so that every family can have a safe home, enough to provide every child of every family with a good education and health care, enough for every single need that sustains meaningful and fruitful life. There is enough, IF, all of us are treated justly. And it’s up to us to make sure justice happens.
God expects us to take care of creation and of each other; it’s a sacred trust that God has given us. Taking care of creation and each other requires that we make sure that we have just, equitable, and sustainable relationships and communities. Today we honor 4 persons who have demonstrated they are worthy of God’s sacred trust for they have worked for just, equitable and sustainable relationships and communities. We give God thanks for them.
The justice I learned about at church camp was not new to me. My family had taught me about justice – about treating others with a loving and just heart. But there is something deeply profound about hearing that justice is a matter of faith, a sacred responsibility before God. There is power in hearing that you and I are called to be agents of God’s own justice. Our work is not just about us and what we want. Our work for economic justice is what God wants and hopes for in this world God created.
God desires economic justice for our world because God knows that true economic justice will bless all of us. The prophet Jeremiah says it well: Seek the welfare of the city and in its welfare you will find your own welfare.
The struggle for economic justice continues to this day almost 50 years after my summer camp experience. Some things are better. Some of us are no longer poor. But the struggle for economic justice is still before us. We see it in this country’s:
- Inability to reform its broken immigration policies and economically treat immigrants fairly and justly;
- Its struggle to accept a livable minimum wage as a necessary expression of justice;
- Its unfair treatment of women when it comes to paying women equal pay for equal work;
- Its closed-mindedness to treating same gender couples and their families with basic economic justice.
- Its corrupt corporate mentality that justifies astronomical economic benefits for CEOs while forgetting to share the profits with the workers who labor, day in and day out, for those corporations.
But it’s not just about justice for us in the U.S. It’s about justice for all God’s people. Poverty is relative, but the bottom line is that the majority of God’s children live in poverty here in this country and all over the world, unnecessarily so.
You do know that some of the economic injustice in the world is caused by U.S. economic forces. Take for example the North American Free Trade Agreement that has left over 2 million corn farmers and their families destitute in Mexico. And we wonder why they migrate to the United States.
As people of faith we must persevere, working steadily and faithfully for economic justice. But let’s do it with joy not with despair, with song rather than lament. Because we stand with God! Our God of justice is busy out there bringing in God’s own justice until the world is again the world of justice, God created it to be. God has given us enough and it’s worth singing about! As people of faith and commitment….
Well (we’ve) got a hammer, and (we’ve) got a bell
And (we’ve) got a song to sing all over this land
It’s a hammer of justice, it’s a bell of freedom
It’s a song about love between (our) brothers and (our) sisters
All over this land…….!
(Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of Pete Seeger’s song, I’ve Got a Hammer, with edits for inclusivity)