If you could let it rip and freely speak your mind, what would you say? …to that controlling boss. …to power-hungry leaders. …to that person you once loved but who let you down. …to that unthoughtful family member. …to that fellow train traveller who disregards the quiet zone! But we don’t because then there would be fallout. John the Baptist didn’t seem to care about what others thought of him. He had little to lose I suppose, living as he did in the wilderness, eating locusts and honey. Ultimately, though, his bold unfiltered speech cost him his life. (Matthew 14:1-12) Every year many brave journalists and political activists are murdered or imprisoned because they spoke out. This month Amnesty International asks us to pray for Zahra Mohammadi, a Kurdish prisoner of conscience, held in an Iranian prison for peaceful activities like teaching the Kurdish language. Speaking out has a price, but so does silence.
Beginning of the meeting
Read the reflection above. Quiet yourself. Become more aware of God’s presence. Open yourself to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage. What images and impressions come to mind as you read or hear the text?
Matthew 3:1-12 New Revised Standard Version
3 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”’ 4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
Reflect on these questions for a few moments in silence, then turn to another person and discuss.
- Is there someone in your church, family, workplace who is the truthteller? Is that person respected or scorned?
- How does naming and seeing injustice help us with the spiritual work of repentance and ultimately, reconciliation?
- Paul says to “speak the truth in love.” What does this mean? When is keeping the peace just a disguise for a lack of courage?
After a few minutes bring the small group discussion to a close and invite people to talk about their insights and reflections in the larger group.
Quiet yourself. Conclude by offering this prayer.
you experienced in person torture and death as a prisoner of conscience. You were beaten and flogged and sentenced to death, though you had done no wrong. Be now with prisoners of conscience throughout the world, especially Zahra Mohammadi. (offer silence, 30 seconds or more) Be with them in their fear and loneliness, in the agony of physical and mental torture, and in the face of execution and death. Stretch out your hands in power to break their chains. Be merciful to the oppressor and the torturer, and place a new heart within them. Forgive all injustice in our lives, and transform us to be instruments of your peace, for by your wounds we are healed. Amen.
Amnesty International, Prayers for Peace.
End of the meeting
Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Good News has been known in your time together.