We are always amazed by the story of Saint Josephine Bakhita, whose feast we celebrate today. Stolen from her family and sold into slavery when she was only about nine years old, Bakhita’s childhood was filled with cruelty and suffering. Her young body cruelly tattooed, whip marks on her thighs, and one leg forever damaged by brutal kicking, so much so that she limped for years thereafter. Children are great survivors. But surely this was a little girl who suffered far too much. Hounded by pain and death from her girlhood, Bakhita somehow learned early on how to live as if death did not have the last word.
And finally years later when she hears about Jesus, she is magnetized and seeks baptism with a tenacity and conviction that astound us. As she gazes at the cross, she is transfixed. The cross is key to her self-understanding, her true self-identity, her freedom, her hope. Jesus, an innocent victim like her, bestows life, her survival has meaning at last. She is drawn into his reality, his death-defying death. And so she calls Jesus her Paron – literally her “Big Daddy,” her Master; at last a Master she can serve with joy and freedom, one who will never, ever hurt or do any violence to her. Light as a feather on the breath of God, Bakhita is lifted up into him and becomes most truly herself.
Surely we dare not compare ourselves with Bakhita. But we all have scars of our own, so many stories brief or lengthy of infirmities of mind or heart or body or soul; illnesses and unhealthy tendencies inherited or acquired; so many things we cannot change, past hurts and abuses endured. In his wounded, resurrected body, Jesus has drawn all of our stories into his story. Our stories are no longer dead-ended, but filled with life and hope. We do not need to avoid our death, our dyings, for now we can discover Jesus our Master there.