St Josephine Bakhita
Today's gospel reading consists of only four verses. However, in these 91 words there is for us a genuine opportunity to deepen our understanding of Jesus who says not one word. As well, buried in these few words is an invitation to examine the reality of faith and it strength in our lives.
From a phrase, "people immediately recognized him," even in Genesaret we know the impact Jesus was having in his ministry. Think backwards, across the Chesapeake Bay, before bridges spanned that grand body of water. Who knew anyone living in Washington ... much less many did not know where it was. Those four words speak to us of Jesus' reputation. The "foreigner" from the East didn't come to Nazareth to purchase furniture from carpenter Joseph. Word of his healing power and his preaching had spread far and wide. Obviously this man's message had begun to impact lives. Jesus was not the only itinerant preacher. He was, however, the one who had given his hearers a true wisdom that opened up the hearts of many to the words of God. People had come to a time in their lives when they could say "credimus," we believe. What had become obvious was this: those who listened and reflected on Jesus' words came to believe him and his Father, fully unaware of the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives. These same people stood apart from the ordinary Jew of the times. They were recognized and were seen as different. It was to these people and their faith that Jesus shared his healing love and care: "and [the sick among them] begged him that they might touch only the tassel of his cloak." St. Mark ratified that belief: "and as many as touched it were healed."
In our society and in our Church today we can say "faith" is an issue neither fully understood nor accepted by all baptized Christians and Catholics. There are among us both men and women who seem to be different, walking to a "different" drummer, not walking in the accepted or imposed pace. Their expressions of faith make many uncomfortable. "Charismatics" and "Born Again" Christians and Catholics frighten the traditional believer. They are experienced as "outside the box," whatever that really might mean! Their expressions of faith are a true challenge to so many others.
In our Church many are those who "walk the talk" and depart from our parish communities for other churches where the expression of faith is, for them, so much more meaningful and alive. They walk to to other professions of faith because they seek a stronger expression of their faith. Faith for them is a daily encounter with the risen Jesus Christ, so powerful a meeting that they are moved to preach, to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. They truly believe in his healing power.
Benedictine monk, Fr. Earls, wrote these words: "Healing becomes the aftemath of faith. Where there is no faith, Jesus can do no deeds of power."
If you are reading this, you are at a computer. Take the time today to google St. Josephine Bakhita. I never knew of the marvelous woman, an African-Italian, until I attended her canonization in Rome. She lived a life that spoke out to many of her faith She was never afraid to speak out for her God. She was also designated as the Patroness of her homeland, the Sudan. There is no doubt that she should be a model to the African American woman, especially the young women, who are looked for noble women, women of stature and genuine strength in our world today. Her body is encased in the airtight glass enclosure beneath an altar in a church near Venice, Italy.