Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita

Scripture Readings: Gen 2:4b-9, 15-17; Mk 7:14-23

Imagine you are eight years old, happily playing with a friend some distance from home.  Suddenly two kidnappers grab both of you at knife point and take you to a strange house.  You’re terrified, but a few nights later the kidnappers make a mistake, leaving a door unlocked.  Both of you escape.  You think, “Oh, how lucky I am!”  When asked for your name, you reply, “I am Lucky.”  But not for long!  You are recapture and sold to a foreigner.  Taken to a strange country you are forced to walk 600 miles with others like yourself until you arrive at a slave market.  It looks like your luck has run out.

Over the next twelve years slave traders buy and sell you over a dozen times, and beat you severely. The worst abuse happens when a cruel master cuts your chest, belly, arms and legs 114 times, rubbing salt into the wounds to increase your pain and leave permanent scars.  Sold again, you’re taken across the Mediterranean to Italy, a victim of human trafficking. This time you are given away as a gift from one friend to another, to serve a family’s needs.  Treated far more kindly, your new owners place you temporally in the care of a religious community.

There you begin to learn about Jesus and Christianity.  When the family returns to reclaim your services you ask to remain with the religious community instead, and they accept you as a member.  For the next fifty years you keep repeating over and over, “How lucky I am, that this should happen to me!”

In Arabic the word for luck, or good fortune is Bakhita.  That’s the name of today’s saint, Sr. Josephine Bakita, from Sudan.  And this was her life. She died in 1947, at 78 years old, and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 1, 2000.  When speaking of her enslavement, she often said that she wanted to thank her kidnappers. For had she not been kidnapped, she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and become a Christian.   She said, “I am truly lucky. I am Bakhita.”  And aren’t we all lucky, we who have come to know and received the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.