Friday, July 15, 2016

"A BRUISED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK."


Homily for July 16th, 2016. Matthew 12:14-21.

          Jesus “warned them not to make him known.” Why? Jesus did not want celebrity status, based on his ability to heal people and perform the other miracles we read about in the gospels. Mostly Jesus worked quietly. The gospel reading we have just heard describes Jesus’ manner of work in language taken from the Prophet Isaiah.

          “He will not contend or cry out,” Isaiah writes. “A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench.” In his 2007 Encyclical on hope, Spe salvi, Pope Benedict XVI tells the story of a woman who was like Isaiah’s bruised reed and smoldering wick, Josephine Bakhita. Born in about 1869 to a wealthy family in the Sudan, she was kidnapped at age 9 and sold and re-sold in the slave market in Darfur. Beaten and flogged by her masters so often that she had 144 scars on her body, she came finally into the possession of the Italian consul in the Sudan. He took Josephine with him when he returned to Italy in 1885. There Josephine heard about a master who was unlike any other: not only just and kind, but one who actually loved her. He too had been flogged. He was waiting for her at the Father’s right hand.

          In January 1890 Josephine was baptized, and on the same day given confirmation and First Communion by the Patriarch of Venice, later Pope St. Pius X. In 1893 she entered the Italian Canossian Sisters, with whom she lived until her death in 1947. Revered by all who knew her because of her gentleness, calming voice, and ever present smile, she was declared a saint by St. John Paul II in 2000.

Asked once, "What would you do, if you were to meet your captors?" Josephine responded: "If I were to meet those who kidnapped me, and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. For, if these things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and a religious Sister today.” Because the Church has declared her a saint, we can pray: “St. Josephine Bakhita, Pray for us.”