“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt. 25-35)
Today as we walked across the border into Mexico alongside the fenced in cattle shoot used by people who are deported every day from the United States I thought about these words. When we served breakfast to men and women who had just been sent back to Mexico without money or clothing I thought about these words. When we heard the story of a woman who had spent 30 days in prison for trying to find a job that would help feed her young children I thought about these words and I wondered what makes these words so difficult to understand. They are quite straightforward and yet for some reason we continue to spend billions of dollars to dehumanize people by building walls, cattle shoots and detention centers.
Sure we give reasons for doing these things. There are laws to be followed. This is not their country. They are taking jobs away from American citizens. They are members of gangs or suspected to be part of terrorist groups. The list is long and creative. But here’s the thing…
Today I met no gang members or terrorists. I encountered no criminals. I did, however, listen to stories of survival. I heard voices filled with determination and hope. I saw tears of frustration rolling down the faces of human beings who want nothing more than to be reunited with their children and give them a better future – nothing more or less than I would do for my own son if I found myself in a similar situation. And I thought about those words Jesus spoke.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
I know I met Jesus this very day sitting across the table from me eating eggs, rice and black beans just across the border in Nogales, Mexico. His name is Juan.