Father Bassano writes from Africa
Every so often in life you receive one of those graced moments when something happens to you that defies description and is unable to be expressed adequately in words. This happened to me in our home of compassion (MJi Wa Huruma) for homeless and abandoned adults and children here in Musoma, Tanzania. Within the home we have a little chapel where we celebrate the Eucharist as the family of God. Even the neighbors who live next door to us are always invited to celebrate.
Since I had just finished language school, the founding Tanzanian priest of the home, Father Godfrey Biseko, invited me to preside and give the homily for the coming week celebration of the Eucharist. I prepared all that week to get ready for this moment which was to be celebrated totally in the Swahili language. When the homily was written, I had someone read it over to make the necessary grammatical corrections. I then decided to memorize the homily without the use of notes so as to be able to look directly into the eyes of the people.
As the day arrived to celebrate on Sunday, I was happy to be with Father Biseko and all the people while somewhat apprehensive about giving the homily. But as I looked out at the people in front of me, I simply felt at home with them and unafraid to share my words from the heart. I then began talking about the importance of being a person of patience as life unfolds before us each day. I shared with them my experience of being in Thailand at a place where people were struggling patiently to live with HIV/AIDS one day at a time and of how they were trying to flow with the unfolding moments of everyday living.
Near the end of the homily I prayed: “Uje Bwana Yesu uishi nadini ya mioyo yetu” (Come, Lord Jesus and live within our hearts). As soon as I had said this a three year old African child came forth, stood right in front of me and tugged at my vestments as if trying to tell me something. I looked at him and smiled. I then went on to say, “Uhe Bwana Yesu, uzaliwe tena ndani ya mioyo yetu” (Come, Lord Jesus, and be born again within our hearts). This same child then tugged at my vestments and once again looked up at me with sparkling eyes so full of wonder, innocence and love. I went speechless as I gazed upon him and put my hands on his head to bless him. Immediately afterwards, I looked at the people and tried to explain in some way that the Risen Jesus is here in the presence of this child. The experience overwhelmed me for a moment yet I continued to finish the last few sentences of the homily while remembering the serene face of that precious child.
What happened that day can never be explained or described completely for it is something deeply felt and experienced from within that is of the Spirit. It was both a transforming and unforgettable moment. In our lives we, too, may sense the presence of God in the most ordinary events of everyday such as the loving face of a child, a smile, a loving greeting from someone, the beauty of creation or in acts of kindness and compassion. All we need to do is be open and aware of how God is speaking to us today,
One of my favorite expressions is: “Please be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” With the gift of patience we learn to be flexible and to go with the flow as the events of our lives unfold. Most importantly, we can discover how Jesus is Risen and present in the most simple and wonderful gifts that surround us.
Happy Easter to All,
Father Mike Bassano, MM