Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In The Image of God

I was hoping to get a post in yesterday to reflect on the first reading of the Mass from Genesis with the feast of the day the lovely St Josephine Bakhita, but I did not get the time.  However that won't stop me.  I have a few minutes now.  I might get another post in later about today's readings.

Yesterday's first reading brought us the second part of the Creation week story culminating in the creation of human beings and then the Sabbath day - the day of rest.  There is a lot which can be said, but taking the cue from the feast of the day our minds have to turn to the nature and dignity of the human person.  St Josephine Bakhita was born in the Sudan around 1868/1869.  When she was around seven she was kidnapped by Arabs and sold into slavery, like so many Africans at the time.  Her early years remained somewhat of a mystery and in the trauma of the experience she even forgot her own name - a young slave with neither history or an identity.  The slave traders called her Bakhita which means lucky, though how they could conclude she was lucky at that point in time is a mystery.  According to one biographer she was forcibly converted to Islam.

Providence, however, led her to a good Italian family who brought her to Italy and her encounter with the Church.  She found her freedom, was baptised into the Church and then entered the Canossian Sisters of Charity where she lived a life of great holiness.   Though she bore physical scars from her years of slavery, including over a hundred marks scored into her body, her suffering did not prevent her from finding her freedom from the pain and traumatic memories through her faith in the love of God - she was a woman of great serenity and joy.   When she was being baptised she chose Josephine as her name - in this she reclaimed her identity - but now it was an identity firmly centred in Christ.

St Josephine's story is one of a human being, created in the image and likeness of God, forced by other human beings into a life of degradation, but set free to find the breath of God living within her, and relying on that, discovering the life of grace and the presence of her loving Redeemer.   Every human person, at every stage of life, regardless of the status society puts on them or the state of their health is worthy of the profound respect due to one created in the image and likeness of God and within whom the breath of God is alive. The attempt to categorise human beings is offensive to their dignity.  

The efforts of Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, and her eugenics movement which inspired such disciples as Adolf Hitler and company, have managed to create a hierarchy of value when it comes to human persons.  For Sanger, like the Arabs who kidnapped St Josephine, race determined whether one was fully human or not, whether you possessed the full rights and privileges of humanity or not: it even decided whether you were free or a commodity.  Sanger's ideas inspired Hitler who murdered Jewish people because they were less human, and today her sons and daughters use the same criteria in murdering unborn children.  These people perish because others fail to see, or to acknowledge, that they are created in the image and likeness of God. 

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