Weekly Reflections: Organizing based on the Gospel of Mark (5/8)


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“The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news.” — Mark 1:14-15

Training program for the core group

Now, Jesus’ core group has its training in the course of confronting actual problems and situations of people. This comes out clearly in the praxis of Jesus and his disciples as they minister and reach out to people in need. In preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom, they respond to the questions and problems as well as to the hopes and aspirations of the people. These are part of the whole educational process of learning both skills and attitudes and a new way of life brought about by the demands and challenges of God’s Kingdom.

Many of life’s situations are occasions for learning by the core group. They are present when Jesus has discussions and arguments with religious leaders and authorities. Much knowledge is absorbed in the course of his healing ministry wherein he uses events and illustrations and explains their significance in relation to God’s Kingdom. The disciples are participants in these situations and are involved in the process of dealing and resolving the issues presented.

Experiential learning is another venue for training. Mark narrates how early in Jesus’ organizing program he arranged one such trip for his core group. In Mark 6:6-13, it says: “Then Jesus went to the village around there, teaching the people. He called the 12 disciples together and sent them out two by two. He gave them authority over the evil spirits and ordered them, ‘Don’t take anything with you on the trip except a walking stick – no bread, no beggar’s bag, no money in your pockets. Wear sandals, but don’t carry an extra shirt.’ He also told them, ‘Wherever you are welcomed, stay in the same house until you leave that place. If you come to a town where people do not welcome you or will not listen to you, leave it and shake the dust off your feet. That will be a warning to them!’ So they went out and preached that people should turn away from their sins. They drove out many demons and rubbed olive oil on many sick people and healed them.”

Then, Mark also speaks of how the core group meets with Jesus to share their stories upon completion of their exposure. In Mark 6:30-34, it says: “The apostles returned and met with Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his disciples didn’t even have time to eat. So he said to them, ‘Let us go off by ourselves to some place where we will be alone. And you can rest awhile.’ So they started out in a boat by themselves to a lonely place.’

Excitement is evident as the disciples exchanged stories. There are signs of hunger, especially for those who missed a number of meals, because they don’t have money or bread. Others showed signs of physical exhaustion due to lack of sleep. Perhaps, there were homes that did not receive them or did not provide them a place to sleep. Perhaps, their sandals needed change after their wear-and-tear journey, because they lacked travel money.

They are tired for sure, but their spirits seem high. Each one is eager to share about the families who welcomed, fed and housed them. They are grateful for the hospitality given them. They also have stories to share regarding their healing and preaching. They seem credible to the people, but there are some who viewed them with skepticism. The realities and responses of the various communities and sectors are varied.

In the exposure trips, Jesus Christ our Lord wants his disciples to experience what it means to be deprived, homeless, hungry and poor, and even to be rejected. And yet even in such situations of helplessness, Jesus impresses upon them that they can still do great things.

The training program for the core group is approached as a teamwork and partnership at various levels between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus Christ our Lord works with them either on a one-on-one basis or in pairs. Matters are also discussed during meetings that include all the 12 disciples, although they also gather even if the group is not complete. What is important is that the disciples have something to learn whether they are with Jesus, among themselves or on their own.

Jesus and powers of his time

Now, Jesus as an organizer is a controversial figure, because the movement he leads espouses a view that is critical of the religious and political powers of his time. There are risks involved when Jesus stood up against the guardians of long-established and well-entrenched institutions and traditions. From the very start, reactions of those threatened by the presence and the person of Jesus are already extreme and strong. It is fraught with threat and danger, and charged with conflict and tension.

Those in power, whose vested interest is questioned by Jesus Christ our Lord and whose authority is put to doubt, do not hesitate to use anything within their control: power, influence, money, persons, structures or systems of society, bribery, deceit and lies. These are used not only to discredit and malign Jesus’ person, but to deprive him of his basic rights and freedom. They plotted to kill him. They think this is the best way to destroy him.

However, Jesus Christ our Lord set his vision on something greater which is beyond what the powers-that-be could comprehend. Truth and God’s Kingdom are more powerful realities, eternal and enduring than the suffering and the blow of death that earthly powers and rulers could inflict to him. There is a limit to the abuse of human power, but much is given to those who hope and trust in God’s power and be part of God’s Kingdom.

In Mark 14:43-72 which tells the story of Jesus’ arrest, the effects on his disciples and followers are described. For instance, physical or violent reaction is resorted to as “one of those standing drew his sword and struck at the High Priest’s slave, cutting off his ear.” A follower just behind Jesus also run away naked leaving behind his linen clothing after Jesus’ captors tried to arrest him, too. Peter also kept a safe distance from Jesus and even denied him three times in the course of his ordeal.

When Jesus Christ our Lord faced death the organization and movement he started continues with its mission. Even then, its members and followers also confront the inevitable question of how to gather together the broken and dispersed community that they have when Jesus was still alive and with them.

But in the Gospel story, Jesus’ death is not the final event for the organization and movement he started. The resurrection is an impetus for the movement he founded. The risen Christ overcomes the powers of the evil forces that tried to put an end to the cause of God’s Kingdom of truth, justice and righteousness (cf. Mk. 16:1-20).#

Continued next week nordis.net

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