HOMILY WEEK 04 06
A Balanced Life of Wise Compassion and Prayerful Solitude:
Optional Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita
(1Kg 3:4-13; Ps 118; Mk 6:30-34)
Solomon’s prayer in the first reading today is a reminder to us of balancing the rational and emotional mind so that we too can have that wise mind that lives life in a healthier way. His prayer for what God wants to give him is a good example of a genuine, heartfelt prayer grounded in a strong faith, and God grants his prayer, including wealth and honor.
In the gospel, Jesus is trying to balance rest and community with ministry, that is a challenge for him as well as for us as we strive to balance compassion and action.
The journey in a small sailing boat provided them with some down time to rest and debrief. When they arrive, Jesus is ready to minister to the people who are like sheep without a shepherd, because he was grounded in the love of his Father through contemplative prayer.
That the people were like sheep without a shepherd means the official religious system of the Jews at that time was not really reaching out to and helping the poor with their daily struggles to survive in a harsh environment.
Being shepherd of the sheep speaks of Henri Nouwen’s journey, first identifying with the prodigal son, then the elder son, and finally realizing that the goal of his spiritual journey is to become the loving father, at home, always ready to welcome and celebrate and give unconditional love to all God’s wayward sons and daughters.
Interestingly, the saint the church honors today, St. Josephine Bakitha, fits especially the letter to the Hebrews. Slave traders kidnapped Josephine when she was only nine and gave her the name Bakitha which means ‘fortunate.’ While it may seem a cruel choice, in time Josephine came to see beauty in it, stating, “If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and a religious today.”
Josephine was born in 1869 in the Darfur region of western Sudan. She was sold as a slave several times until 1883, when she was sold to the Italian consul who treated her with kindness and warmth. When he returned to Italy with his family, she accompanied them, and in 1888 she went to live at the Catechumenate of the Canossian Sisters in Venice. She was baptized in 1890, taking the name Josephine.
According to Italian law, since she had reached the age of majority, she was now free. She chose to join the Canossian Daughters of Charity and lived fifty years of religious life in Schio (Vicenza). She led a simple life as a cook, seamstress and doorkeeper, and her gentleness and compassion for the poor and suffering endeared her to all. She is still known today in Schio as ‘our Black Mother.’ She died in 1947, after a long illness, and was canonized in 2000. The first saint from Sudan, Josephine Bakitha is the patron saint of that country.
The Eucharist is an oasis, a time of coming away to listen to God’s word and be nourished by the very Body and Blood of Jesus, The good shepherd. Then we are sent out as modern day missionary disciples and apostles, precisely to be good shepherds to all those around us.