Migrant Sunday was celebrated at the 9 am Mass on the 24th September at CDM Penang. The main theme of the day was The Generous Love of God with the sub-theme recognizing Child Migrants: the Helpless and Vulnerable. The purpose of this celebration was to continue the on-going efforts of the Migrant Ministry at CDM to reach out to the migrant community within our midst to make them feel welcomed and to promote a culture of encounter in the parish.
It was most heart-warming to see the diverse groups of Filipinos, Indonesians, Nigerians, Indians and Vietnamese all turn up to celebrate the Mass. The congregation was exposed to an awaking reminder when at the end of the first and second readings of the day that they had heard the Word of God from the proclamation declared loudly in a chant by each lector. The first reading was read in the major Nigerian dialect of Igbo by Patrick Chikere and the second reading was done in Vietnamese by Joseph Nguyen.
In his homily on the Gospel of Matthew 20:1-16a about God’s generosity in paying hired labourers, Fr Martin Arlando remarked that often this gospel reading makes people feel that life is unfair. We get less, not more for our efforts. He related that things can always be much worse and told a humorous story about a priest who advocated this by saying that in any situation, things could actually be much worse. It is common for us to complain when we do more but get less. But why be envious of God’s generosity. God’s ways and thoughts are above ours. Imagine the feelings of the latecomers who had been waiting for work, feeling hopeless, rejected and desperate for that day’s wage of one denarii to feed their families. Their only hope was in God’s mercy. Fr Martin told the congregation that it isn’t about being a good person and expecting to go to heaven but to please Jesus so as to be close to Him. He reminded everyone that the first person to go to heaven after the death of Jesus was the repentant thief. The one that had sinned so much that he was crucified and yet he went to heaven ahead of the sinless Mother Mary. When one is in love with Jesus, you want to please Him and be with Him. You can prove this with your prayer life and in living everyday by the way you live. Don’t you want others to experience this generosity and love of God? If you love God, this is the way to prove it by the way you live your life in Jesus ‘ example and He will give what you want most, that is, to be with Him. On this migrant Sunday Fr Martin reminded us that we need to focus on the children. To reach out with the love of Jesus as we are their hands and feet as they have no one else to turn to. If you had children in another country wouldn’t you want someone there to reach out to them. Trust in God’s ways and always give thanks for the opportunity to be a Jesus to them by showing them the tender love of God’s mercy.
At the end of mass the congregation were shown a video prepared by the regional episcopal migrant group on the Plight of Migrants in the World for Migrant Sunday. Fr Martin also asked all migrants to come to the altar for a special blessing.
After mass, the migrants were invited to Faustina Hall for fellowship. A light meal was prepared by Filipino and Indonesian caterers that consisted of Pinoy and some favourite dishes such as sweet and sour fish and stir fried vegetables. A Filipino band serenaded the diners with a medley of songs in English, Tagalog, and Bahasa Indonesia. They were then joined by some “guest artistes” who brought the house down with their renditions of “One Love” and a Batak Toba number. The children enjoyed themselves too, dancing delightedly to the music. It was very encouraging to see everyone enjoying the meal, then staying back to chat with each other and with the locals who dropped by to meet them. Gilda, a young professional from India, said she was impressed that the event was organised specially for migrants and felt happy that the parish community actually knew of their existence and cared about them.
A Malaysian was overheard commenting that it was “so nice” to hear the two guest lectors proclaiming the readings then chanting “the Word of the Lord” in their own languages.
Dr Ivan Filmer
29th September, 2017.