In the first reading, Job had lost his farm, his possessions, then his family was taken from him, his wife, and now even his health. The last line of the reading sums up his sentiment during the misery he is enduring: “I shall not see happiness again” (Job 7:7) Of course, in the midst of trials and suffering, this could very well be our own lament.
Job’s cry of hopelessness stands in marked contrast to the hope of those who put their trust in Jesus. Simon Peter’s mother in law was ill with a fever. They asked the Lord to heal her and he did.
“Simon’s mother-in-law is like Job’s toiling, hopeless humanity. She is laid low by afflic- tion but too weak to save herself.
But as God promised to take His chosen people by the hand (see Isaiah 42:6), Jesus grasps her by the hand and helps her up. What Jesus has done for Simon’s mother-in- law, He has done for all humanity— raised all of us who lay dead through our sins (see Ephesians 2:5).” (Dr. Scott Hahn).
One such example of Christian hope is St. Josephine Bakhita whose memorial is Thursday, February 8th.
Josephine was born around 1869 in tribal Sudan, Africa. Kidnapped as a child by Arab slave traders, she was given the name “Bakhita,” meaning “lucky one.” She was sold to a number of owners in the Middle East until she was purchased around the age of twelve by the Italian Consul Callisto Legnani.
He brought her to Italy and, while serving as nanny, was sent to live with the Canosian Sisters in Venice while the family travelled.
There she began to love Jesus Christ, and she was formally instructed in the faith and was baptized Guiseppina (Josephine). When her owner returned to collect her, the sis- ters protested her being held as a slave.
The case went to court, and the court found that slavery had been outlawed in Sudan before Josephine was born, so she could not be lawfully made a slave. She was de- clared free. In fact, she had been legally free her whole life.
For the first time in her life, Josephine was free and could choose what to do with her life. She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.
In 1896 she joined the Sisters, and for 25 years joyfully served as cook, seamstress, and portress (doorkeeper). She taught children Catechism. She was especially loved by her students for her sweet nature, constant smile, and musical voice.
When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnap- pers. “For had I not been kidnapped, I might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church.”
During World War II, the people of the village of Schio regarded her as their protector. And although bombs fell on their village, not one citizen died.
In her later years, she began to suffer physical pain and was forced to use a wheelchair. But she always remained cheerful. If anyone asked her how she was, she would reply, "As the master desires."
On the evening of February 8, 1947, Josephine spoke her last words, "Our Lady, Our Lady!" She then died. Her body lay on display for three days afterwards.
This former slave was canonized a Saint of the Church by St. John Paul II on October 1, 2000.
She always told her young students, every day: “Be Good, Love Jesus, Pray for those who don’t.”
God bless you all, Father Letona