Homily for February 8, 2018: From Slavery to Sainthood by Fr. Abu

“Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Mark 7:27-28.

The greatest act of injustice against a fellow human being is treating that person in a certain way not because of who they are but because of their race, colour, religion or place of origin. Yet, from time immemorial, humans have been made to suffer grievously as a result of where they come from.

Dear friends, none of us chose our parents. None of us had the privilege of choosing our date of birth or the circumstances surrounding our birth. Even our religion, (our beliefs, our culture and world-view) is ninety-nine per-cent borrowed; a product of our environment, our upbringing, our parents’ religion and so on.

As such, to be denied certain privileges simply because of where I come from, the language I speak or the place I choose to worship is not only an insult on me as a person but a denial of my humanity. It is like saying I am not a complete human being or that I do not have the same rights and privileges as every other person.

I think Jesus hit the nail on the head in today’s Gospel passage when he referred to the Syrophoenician woman as a dog. It was like saying to her that because she wasn’t a Jew, she didn’t have the right to demand for a miracle. This is the same fate being suffered by millions all over the world today; millions who are being maltreated, oppressed, enslaved, denied of their basic rights; made to feel like animals and so on. This is basically the story of St. Josephine Bakhita whose memorial we celebrate today.

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Dear friends, the war against slavery, racism, dehumanization did not begin today and I doubt if this homily will suddenly change the hearts of all humans who believe themselves superior to their fellow humans; humans who can afford to call whole countries shit-holes; humans who associate the colour black with darkness, weakness and poverty.

But I write to all those in the position of the Syrophoenician woman, those who feel marginalized, insulted, denied of their rights as persons and made to suffer unjustly simply because of their origin, tribe or religion. Have the courage, humility and wisdom to first accept your reality then find a way of hitting gold right where you are. The woman did not deny she was dog as far as miracles are concerned, she simply asked for the crumbs. She was able to realize that even dogs are entitled to crumbs.

Yes, no matter how oppressed a person may be, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how bad things may be now, no matter the amount of suffering and injustice you may be subjected to from different form of slave-riders, there are still little crumbs of bread around you capable of changing your story.

Do not give up on your dreams. Do not abandon your goals. Do not fall into despair, do not for once assume that you are going to amount to nothing. Do not walk away from Jesus; do not walk away from people who call you names or treat you like a lesser human being. Be Strong, be persistent, be determined.

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We call her St. Bakhita but even the name “Bakhita” was given to her by her kidnappers. Having being bought, resold, bought and resold countless times, she couldn’t even remember the name her parents gave to her. She experienced humiliations and sufferings of slavery, both physical and moral. But today, she is a Saint. Countless miracles have occurred owing to her intercession. Forget about what you are going through now; be focused on the end result, you too can be a Saint.

Solomon started well but as he grew older, he lost touch with God, he abandoned true worship and turned the worship of idols. He had too many wives and because he wanted to please them, he built temples for their gods. When I think of Solomon, I am tempted to say: “God, I thank you for my poverty, I thank you for not giving me the kind of wealth that would bring out the animal in me.”

Honestly, having everything this world has to offer is not really a blessing. Maybe if Solomon wasn’t rich, maybe if he had to run from place to place searching for his basic human rights, maybe if he was oppressed, he would have never abandoned God.

Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, save us from slavery, man’s inhumanity to man, bless us not only with good things in this world but with wisdom never to forsake you. Amen. St. Josephine Bakhita, pray for us.

*Be happy, live positive, it is well with you. Thursday of the 5th week in Ordinary time. Bible Study: 1st Kings 11:4-13 and Mark 7:24-30.*

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Fr. Abu.

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