Bishop Vincent Zungu OFM – Port Elizabeth Diocese
Reflecting about the dramatic background of the life of St Josephine Bakhita, Bishop Vincent Zungu said, “God writes straight through crooked lines.” He was highlighting the reality that, despite the painful and hard situation Bakhita went through, God visited her and journeyed with her. God was always in line with her life. He continued by saying everything turns unto good for all those who love God.
The bishop emphasized that the life of Bakhita changed forever when she was snatched at the age of seven. She experienced endless torture and humiliation, experience poverty and her dignity was trampled upon, but she was never broken down. She was fortified by the gift of amazing fortitude.
Through listening to the word of God and the teaching of the Catholic Church, Bakhita fell attracted to follow the Lord and she started preparing herself for the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, then later took the name of Josephine for her baptism and officially became Josephine Bakhita.
After the experience of encounter with Christ Bakhita refused to go back to his native land. She became closer to God where she was, lived a life of holiness and sanctity. It was during the same experience of pain and drama of her life that she improved her relationship with God and committed herself to his compassionate service of the people of God. She was later declared the patroness of Sudan where she was born and a patron saint for victims of modern day slavery: the displaced, the migrants, refugees and those who have been trafficked.
Most of the time we think we are limited by our background, but Bakhita did not allow herself to be crushed down. She did not yield to bitterness she experienced, instead she received a grace to forgive and put the past behind.
In expressing how much she has departed with the past, in some of her words Bakhita said, “If I had an opportunity to meet those who kidnapped me and made me a slave, I would kneel down and kiss their feet, for if that did not happen, I wouldn’t be a Christian and a Religious today.”
Bishop Zungu emphasized that we should be compassionate to each other like Bakhita was compassionate to the people she was serving. We should not allow ourselves to be victims of our circumstances. All of us are called to be holy like our Heavenly Father.
Referring to the first reading of the day from the letter to the Hebrews, the bishop said we need to promote sisterly and brotherly love amongst ourselves, and treat others with love and dignity.
At the end Bishop Zungu quoted the words of Albert Camus saying that life is a paradox. “In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, and invincible calm. I realized, through it all…In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there is something stronger – something better, pushing right back”(Albert Camus)
We pray that through the powerful intercession of St Josephine Bakhita all forms of all modern slavery should come to an end.
St Josephine Bakhita! Pray for us!