Today, part of our prayer is “Forgive us for those times when our silence has damaged your world, hindered the ongoing work of Christ and muffled the truth.” Once more, the World Council of Churches also provides song and prayer resources. Among the suggested prayers is this affirmation of faith, which ends by declaring the “death of every silence” in Jesus Christ:
I believe in a Father
who so loves his children
to wait in silence for their return
in order to give them the best robe,
kill the fatted calf
and celebrate the feast of reconciliation.
I believe in a Spirit
whose power is not revealed in the thunder of the gale
nor in the dread of the earthquake
but in the still, small voice.
I believe in a Son
who broke the power of Silence
with the piercing cry
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Dying on the cross
he transformed the silence of death
into the death of every silence.
(Massimo Aprile, Italy. In: Rete di Liturgia, 1996, No. 2 © Rete di Liturgia.)
Day 6 – Empowered to speak out
‘But the woman…came in fear and trembling…and told him the whole truth’ (Mk 5: 33)
I will be with you
Call on me
Telling the whole truth
There are topics one is not supposed to talk about : notably, sex, money and religion. And for Jesus to deal with a woman with a haemorrhage was both amazing and groundbreaking. It was faith and confidence in Jesus which encouraged her to reach out to him knowing that healing would flow from him. Being touched, Jesus realised that power had gone out from him while the woman experienced healing and empowerment – the empowerment to speak out and to tell how her whole story of long silent suffering had come to an end. And it was only after she had told her story that Jesus could say: Be healed.
This parallels the situation of many pastors in South Africa, longing to minister to those suffering from HIV/AIDS, but hampered by a conspiracy of silence and shame. Only when those infected and affected are prepared to tell their stories can the words and acts of healing happen and people be ministered to. There is a Zulu saying that keeping silence about a great secret is like sitting on a scorpion. Churches have the task and challenge of providing safe space for those infected to speak out.
The churches themselves need to be outspoken about issues that, for whatever reason, are difficult to talk about. These may include, beyond South Africa, issues of war and peace, the life-destroying effects of global capitalism, the tragedy of asylum seekers, or hidden child abuse. This is not a choice for the church but it points to the very centre and reason for its existence. God has called the church to proclaim his Word to the world, to bring good news to those in need, and churches cannot remain silent when external forces hinder the ongoing incarnation of this Word. But at times, the churches themselves are an obstacle to this incarnation because of their divisions and disunity. The Word given to the church is one, and it is only when churches speak with one voice and act with a single compassion that they become true and credible witnesses to this Word. Therefore the churches have also to be prepared to speak about the shame of their own disunity. Only if we tell the painful truth of our disunity is our healing possible.
Creator God, you spoke and made the world to be good; your risen Son intercedes on our behalf; your Spirit guides us into all truth. Forgive us for those times when our silence has damaged your world, hindered the ongoing work of Christ and muffled the truth. Give us courage, as individuals and as churches, to speak the truth in love with one voice, to embody your compassion for all who suffer, and to send out the good news of the gospel to all the world; in the name of him in whom the Word took flesh among us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.