Land at its best it is productive, and we enjoy its fruits every day. It provides foundations for homes, is cleared away for the building of hospitals, earth broken to produce something real and positive.
It is, rightly and truly, a valued commodity. It can too, bring out the greedy side where land is loved for what it can do for us rather than what we can do for it. The Prodigal son’s approach has much to say to us today: “Father let me have the share of the estate that would come to me”, comes from a place of putting a price rather than value on the land. What can I get from it? What is in it for me? How can I turn this to a quick profit? For those who know the land, profits are seldom quickly made, and work is hard. In our own recent past we witnessed the horrendous after effects of land speculation where prices were exaggerated to a place where value was lost and, truth told, lives destroyed.
The son in today’s Gospel was perfectly entitled, if not somewhat hasty, in his approach to his father. The estate would indeed be divided between him and his brother. He wondered why he had to wait for his father’s death for this to happen? There was logic in it. “I am entitled to this. My father knows I am. If it is to be mine why can’t it be mine now?” He was, after all a son. That is one of the issues being highlighted by Trócaire this year – the continued denial of inheritance rights in some countries and traditions to daughters or, daughters-in-law.
A man might die and, following the death, his widow can be put off her property because she has no inheritance rights as a woman. The husband’s brothers can, with the full support of tradition, literally take her home away. There is surely place for education here – a raising of awareness that rights are not rooted in gender and that the “roots” in the soil, seek nourishment from the human hand and ask no questions around gender.
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