During a WhatsApp conversation, a friend laments his utter disgust with group work assignment for an academic course. There are the procrastinators, free riders, minimalistic contributors, the talkers, the lazy ones, and others having a combination of at least two of these traits. Let’s not forget the saviour of the group who ensures that the assignment is done and is submitted on time. Then what? The grade arrives. It’s a good grade. And the procrastinators, the free riders, the talkers, the lazy ones and the minimalistic contributors revel in the grade.
Next day – Sunday morning
Fr. Martin Sirju preaches. His homily! Four reasons Jesus sends his disciples on mission in pairs. First, reinforcing team work. “It’s not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Second, disciples are called to pray together. “Where two or three are gathered in my name I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). Third, disciples are called to collaborate by utilizing the diversity of gifts to build the Kingdom of God. Fourth, disciples discern God’s will together. As priests, he prayed that we don’t become jealous of each other’s gifts but value and bring our gifts together in ministry.
A call to be counter-cultural. Colonial and independent Caribbean societies forged an individualistic and competitive education system. It’s not about a group learning, but individuals outcompeting each other. Christian spirituality is no different. Have you ever heard the expression “My personal relationship with the Lord!”? Have you ever heard the expression “Our community relationship with the Lord!”? Christian spirituality often emphasizes the personal or individual over the communal, resulting in fierce competition within Christian communities and among Christian Churches.
Perhaps the wisdom of Joan Chittister can guide us.
“When we pray, we come to discover God’s universal love. . . We finally understand that the God we seek is the God of the world, and so, to seek that God, we must develop hearts as big as the world ourselves. . .me feel good. It is reduced to an exercise the intent of which is to assure me of my own value. It swaddles me in self-righteousness and self-serving. . . Then we are simply worshipping ourselves and calling it prayer (Breath of the Soul).”