Monday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
On February 8, 1947, Josephine Bakhita breathed her last at the Canossian convent in Schio. She was born around 1869 in Darfur in Sudan and kidnapped and sold by slave traders at the age of nine. In 1882, she was sold to Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan. Two years later he took Bakhita to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. Bakhita became babysitter to Mimmina Michieli, whom she accompanied to Venice’s Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. Here, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of “master,” which she was now learning about the God of Jesus Christ. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. Now she had “hope” —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope that she was “redeemed”, no longer a slave, but a free child of God. On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed, taking the name Josephine. On 8 December 1896, in Verona, she took her vows in the Congregation of the Canossian Sisters and from that time onwards, she assisted her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors at the door. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1st, 2000.
Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical letter Spe Salvi, lifts up Josephine Bakhita’s life story as an outstanding example of the Christian hope, that she received her liberation through her encounter with the God of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel reading, we hear that the first thing the people do is just to recognize Jesus. In other words, our encounter with Jesus has to happen before anything else can happen. Where do I encounter Jesus in my life? Do I share the hope like St. Josephine Bakhita, that Jesus could transform my live? Can I encounter Jesus with the same faith like St. Josephine Bakhita, confident that His hope will never disappoints me?