Seeing Jesus in the ‘Vene’
Sunday Gospel: MATTHEW 25:31–46
By Natalia Thompson
“For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”
As we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, the gospel reading today in Matthew reminds us that Christ will return one day in all His glory and that we will all be held accountable for our individual actions or responses to the needs of the least in society.
In fact our individual response to those marginalised and excluded is a response to Jesus Himself, as He identifies with the broken and those in need, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”
When I think about the least in society in the context of Trinidad and Tobago, I think about those who are unaccepted, rejected, ridiculed, without a say and not much advocacy for their rights.
In our country, living among us we have over 40,000 Venezuelan migrants and refugees. More than just a label ‘Vene’ as they are locally referred to, but individuals with lives they led back home and a story to tell, having faced the economic challenges and the literal collapse of the economy in Venezuela.
Our migrant brothers and sisters would have left the familiar and all that they knew to embark on a dangerous voyage aboard pirogues across the Gulf of Paria in search of a life of dignity with access to basic resources to survive.
Not an unfamiliar narrative to us Trinis as we have some relative or family member who would have left our beloved homeland in search of better life prospects in the USA, Canada or England. We, too, would have had some challenging financial seasons of our life but without all the excitement of being huddled in a small boat not knowing if one will live to make it.
With hopes and dreams of a better life, upon their arrival here on our shores, they have instead faced harsh realities such as xenophobia, racism, violence, lack of policies and laws to grant them permission to work as well as access to education.
The challenges are many for the migrants and refugees among us and though these challenges point to the need for systemic changes, today’s gospel message demands an individual response from us.
What can I do to help? How can I be the hands and feet of Jesus to serve those broken and in need? How can I provide not just physical food and drink but give them hope for tomorrow in a strange land?
Lord, help me to see You among the broken and those in need in our society. Help me to see my own divinity and theirs so that my response to our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters will be one that reflects the values of Your Kingdom: love, peace, justice, and dignity of the human being. Amen.
Natalia Thompson is a married mother of four. She is also a foreign language teacher and Head of Department of Foreign Languages at Holy Faith Convent, Couva. She is also an advocate for the rights of migrants and refugees.