Posted by: dowsmallgroups | 08/02/2013

St Josephine Bakhita – a sign of hope

The following reflection first appeared in Sparks of Light (WRCDT, 2012) and is reproduced here in honour of her feast day – 8 February.

St Josephine BakhitaOne of the things that the Lord invites us to do during Lent is to let go of past hurts and hand them over to him for his healing touch so that we can become whole again. A desire to receive his healing, his forgiveness and to forgive others is essential to the work of grace. With the Lord’s help, as the life and example of St Josephine Bakhita teaches, we will be able to do day-by-day what others regard impossible.

It would have been easy for St Josephine to have let her early life shape her in a way that meant she was embittered and closed off to others, especially from friendship and love. Despite everything that she endured she broke the cycle of sin and pain choosing to let go and begin a new life with God as her spiritual Master. Pope Benedict XVI highlighted in Spe Salvi (In Hope we are Saved) that, she ‘helps us understand what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time,’ (SS, 3) and to experience God’s transforming power.

As Christians we are called to witness daily to someone beyond ourselves, whose strength becomes our strength, especially when people hurt us and things don’t go as we had hoped. Josephine sought and received the grace to let her ongoing relationship with Christ shape her past, present and future, freeing her from all that enslaved her.

Through knowledge of Christ Josephine was ‘redeemed’, both in terms of being freed from actual slavery, but also interiorly she discovered what it means to live as a free child of God. Her physical scars did not hinder her because she lived the reality that God’s power is greater than every evil, every sin. Josephine’s life teaches us that although the road to holiness is often marked by times of intense suffering, this is not the end of the story. With God’s grace, if we surrender all that we are to him, we can be healed, reconciled and forgiven, and in turn can be a signpost for others to the source of those gifts. We can come to understand that trials can bring blessing with God’s help.

One of the things that marked Josephine’s life was that her sanctity was not proved in a solitary act but it was lived daily. From her conversion she chose to embrace goodness, love, joy and humility. Each day of her religious life she strived to open the door with smile and offer a comforting word to visitors. She did the same to witness to God’s love through all her daily activities. Convent life must have brought its own challenges and yet she remained constant, handing over all that she was to Jesus.

We are invited to do the same, to let go and live in expectant hope, remaining constant whatever befalls us, fixing our gaze on our heavenly Master in whom we find everything.

If I had experienced all that St Josephine had experienced as a slave would I have responded in the same way as her, or instead succumbed to temptation becoming embittered, angry and self-pitying? Can I identify any good, any blessings, that have come out of awful experiences in my life? Who and what sustains me during life’s trials?

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