Yesterday my wife and I saw the new movie about César Chávez. I’ve seen a few critics complain that it is a bit hagiographic, but my response is “so what?” Sometimes we need to remember the greatness of our greatest examples. We don’t forget their humanity, but neither do we let their shared humanity overshadow the fact that they did something to stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries so that we might all be reminded that we can be more. I highly recommend this film.
Since Lent is a “forty-day period of focus on penitence and preparation for the Resurrection Event of Easter” it is also a time when we try to set aside those things that we’ve allowed to prevent us from our highest flourishing by the empowerment of the Spirit. It is a time when we try to be more sacrificial toward others. Since I’ve been reading a bit about Chávez I thought I’d share a few quotes from him today on self-sacrifice from Mario T. García’s The Gospel of César Chávez: My Faith in Action:
“I would like people to choose one important area of human need and focus their energies in that direction—so much so that their lives are touched and changed by the people they work with. People should not be hesitant to give themselves to others or to a good cause. They should not fear the unknown or commitments that might change the way they have organized their lives. Let us go forth to find a new and fuller and happier life—I think a life closer to God. I guess that is one of my goals—to be closer to God.” (p. 53)
“Perhaps we can bring the day when children will learn from their earliest days that being fully men and fully women means to give one’s life to the liberations of the brother who suffers. It is up to each one of us. It won’t happen unless we decide to use our own lives to show the way.” (p. 55)
And one I found to be especially poignant after seeing the scene from the movie where Chávez committed himself to a fast until all the union workers recommitted themselves to nonviolent means:
“When you sacrifice, you force others to do the same. It is a powerful weapon. When someone stops eating for a week or 10 days, people come and want to be part of the experience. Those who are willing to sacrifice and be of service have little difficulty with people. When you work and sacrifice more than anyone around you, others feel the need to do at least a little bit more than they were doing before.” (p. 54)
I hope you found these comments from César Chávez to be as inspiring as I did. I hope that as we engage Lent together we do not fall trap to the wrongheaded idea that we are the Savior, but that neither do we forget who he has called us to be as his people. I hope that we all may find something that drives us to be salt and light in the world to make it a better place for generations to come.