November 24, 2017, 10:45 pm
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Building up a domestic church

AT that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.

Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done to you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

***

Every year, hundreds of converts in Hong Kong are baptized during the Easter Vigil after months of catechumenal preparations. Indeed, this is one of the fruits of the mission in this First World state where the Catholic population is a minority. The Hong Kong mission is rather extraordinary in many ways, and one of those is that the missionaries there are not just the clergy, religious, and consecrated lay, but also the poor, ordinary laypeople, whom we know as the Filipina domestic helpers.

One Chinese catechumen was asked what inspired him to decide to have himself baptized. He replied, “Our long-time Filipina domestic helper is a Catholic and over the years, I have seen what being a Catholic means through her attitude, behavior, way of life, and prayer: the way she has been serving my family kindly in our home; the way she has been serving her family with much sacrifice; the way she has been serving the Church at Saint Alfred Church devotedly every Sunday; and the words of wisdom she shares with us about faith and life—all these have contributed in the warmth, joy, and love in my home. Her life has been inspiring that it moved me to think that being a Catholic must be the true way of life.” 

The Prophet Isaiah tells us, “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants… them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer” (56:1, 6). This passage has rung more truly with the Filipina domestic helper and her Chinese employers who converted to Catholicism. 

On the one hand, the Filipina domestic helper is in fact the foreigner in Hong Kong but continues to live out her faith in God. Although she is living far from her own country, she has lived out God’s words: joining herself, ministering to, loving, and becoming the servant to her own family, to her Chinese employers, and to Saint Alfred Parish. Through such a life in, with, and for the Lord, she has been graced with the power to profess and proclaim the Good News in her own home, in her employers’ home, and in the home of the Lord, the Church. 

The Chinese convert, on the other hand, has been graced with the gift of listening to the inner stirring of the Holy Spirit speaking the true way of life through the Filipina domestic helper’s life of faith. The employer’s baptism is the beginning of joining himself with the Lord, ministering to him, loving his name, and becoming his servant. But even before his baptism, he and his family have already been experiencing the joy of the fruits of faith in God through the service, friendship, devotion, and inspiring life of their Filipina helper. After baptism, he and his family can experience the fullness of the joy of Christian life should he continue to receive and make use of the gift of the Holy Spirit prompting him to be one with and serve the Lord and his house of prayer, the Church. 

Indeed, when we talk of mission and new evangelization in the Church, the overseas Filipino workers can offer an example in preaching the gospel and building up domestic churches. With certainty, they have been empowered by the Holy Spirit for new evangelization. It is grace
that what started as the sacrifice of the Filipina domestic helpers for their families was transformed by the Lord into a martyrdom of faith as they were able to profess and proclaim Jesus through their life and service to the foreign families for whom they work. 

Many times, Filipina domestic helpers “eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters” (Mt 15:27). But strengthened in faith by God and receiving the Holy Spirit’s grace of evangelizing domestic homes, they feed their masters with the fullness of their faith that turns what were “Gentile” homes into domestic churches. Now that is “new evangelization” by the Filipino lay missionaries of Hong Kong! And Jesus would certainly be extolling them saying, “O woman, great is your faith!” (Mt 15:28). 

***

– Fr. Mark Yoniz C. Beley, OMI
– (Aug. 20, 2017)
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