[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 26: JANUARY 26, 2022]

Have we fertilized our soil so that seeds can grow?

Mark 4:1-20. The Parable of the Sower

Finally, a gospel featuring a parable! Two verses stood out to me the most:

Mark 4:12 (the response of Jesus to those questioning Him about the parables): …so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and forgiven.

Mark 4: 20: …but those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.

What I love about the parables is that they seem simple stories yet very profound. They are gifts that keep on giving. I have heard the parables since I was a child, yet every time I hear them, new meanings and insights keep on emerging.

It is as if we are the soil where the Sower plants seeds, and we are in a continuing journey of enriching ourselves, fertilizing ourselves, to make sure that we internalize moral and spiritual lessons.

The Mark 4:12 passage seems like Jesus critiquing those who only pay attention to the appearances, the apparent or surface-level meanings, of the parables He shares. It is an invitation — a challenge even — to pause, reflect, and savor the meanings and insights that arise from His stories.

The challenge with business and politics is that we seem to always prefer the low-hanging fruits, pleasing stakeholders and citizens with short-term spectacles (i.e., bullshit). But isn’t it our collective responsibility to fertilize our soil? Enriching and fertilizing soil seems an analogy for the struggles we have to go through for us to grow.

Maybe we have overemphasized pleasures and spectacles too much at the expense of growth pains towards authentic and integral development.

[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 25: JANUARY 25, 2022]

Pro-claiming

Mark 16:15-18. Proclaim the Gospel to every creature

A definition of “proclamation” that seems resonates with me is: “a clear declaration of something”. There is clarity and importance inherent to a proclamation. The act of declaration means there is emphasis, a certain kind of resolve.

To me, I distinguish proclamation against proselytizing or in-your-face preaching. I find the latter ineffective in enriching the faith, in contrast to the stories and actions that Jesus exemplified. Thus, I frame proclaiming as “pro-claiming”, as in attesting to one’s claims and by extension, living and embodying one’s claims about the Good and the Truth.

Jesus sought the marginalized. Some would say that the Apostles were not very wise nor intelligent akin to Solomon. Yet, Jesus spoke in parables and questions that invited reflection, discernment, and discourse.

The parables are invitations to make sense of our thinking and feeling, to arrive at the Truth and Primary Insight through our own personal journeys. Thus, to effectively evangelize is to proclaim, as in to invite others to reflect on the purpose of our lives. Reflection goes beyond the sense-experience or the empirical; it requires the courage to appropriate one’s self and acknowledge our tendencies, desires, and goals in life.

To proclaim the gospel is to dialogue with each other, not to shove misinterpretations of the Word down an innocent’s throat.

Imagine if businesses and organizations provide services that go beyond hedonistic pleasures or alleviation of psychological pain; a value proposition that allows not just functional and emotional values, but even spiritual, transcendent, or at least purposeful meaning-making. Imagine advertisements that does not make you feel insecure about your appearance, but rather, allows you to treasure your loved ones through creative messaging.

As a businessperson or a consumer, can you imagine these? Hopefully, the answer is yes.

[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 24: JANUARY 24, 2022]

Mark 3:22-30. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

Unrepentance and impenitence are unforgivable sins against the Holy Spirit

Ignorance is bliss; but willfull ignorance is a grave sin, a blasphemy even. Yet to seek wisdom – the Word, the Primary Insight – is to dispose ourselves of ignorance and to bear a cross of responsibility for our insights, judgements, and actions.

As someone in the academe, I am called to teach, to study, to seek insights and wisdom, although it’s a process of trial-and-error. Perhaps an educator ridding one’s self of ignorance is a call for a sort of virtuous suffering. As we know more, we’re given more, and more is expected of us. This is the sacrificial aspect of the teaching vocation.

Unrepentance and impenitence are unforgivable sins against the Holy Spirit, precisely because a person who does not repent nor does penance is not seeking forgiveness. God is both just and merciful. I do not think this is in contrast to God’s unconditional love. If we arrive at the insight that we have sinned and judged for ourselves that we need to humbly ask for forgiveness, God will grant it.

But how can we find something that we do not seek? We must embark in our own personal journey towards humility and authenticity. This is the call to reflect and discern.

Businesses blindly pursuing profits at the expense of society, fanatics prioritizing defending their idols more than holding them accountable, and preferring a narrative or a side to “win” rather than to seek the most reasonable truth – we are in danger of committing blasphemy.

Open minds and open hearts lead to the nourishing of our spirits. But we must open our minds and hearts ourselves, because He will knock, but it’s up to us whether our doors would be opened.

[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 23: JANUARY 23, 2022]

Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21. The beginning of the Galilean ministry

Timing in Teaching

Jesus seemed to be more active with his teaching, in contrast to the previous readings where He did not want others to spread stories about Him yet. The people have begun following Him more intently.

There is indeed timing involved in teaching and fulfilling a prophecy. Perhaps prophecy is not about fortune telling nor prediction, but a recognition that a society is headed and must head towards a certain state before a change agent can bring about a desired outcome.

Maybe there are insights that are always there, but the knower is not yet ready or aware. The Word is always there, but we must seek Him.

[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 22: JANUARY 22, 2022]

Mark 3:20-21. He is out of his mind

Out of One’s Mind

Notice these three statements:

1. Jesus is judged by his relatives and the Pharisees as “out of his mind”, for He did things that are apparently in contrast with traditional laws or norms.

2. Millennials (and the upcoming Gen Z) are judged in terms of job-hopping or prioritizing passion or purpose over profits. Our generation is out of our minds.

3. Flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers are judged for going against scientific evidence about the planet Earth and the efficacy of vaccines. Society judges them as being out of their minds.

What’s the difference between the three statements? For me, the first and second statements show Jesus and the new generation (Jesus, infallible; generations, very fallible) engaging in AUTHENTIC DISCERNMENT, oriented towards what is truly good. The third statement seems born out of preferring a narrative, sticking to it, and not wanting to be wrong.

The insight: we can apparently appear as insane to others, but Jesus and the people who leave a coherent train of thought (or audit trail) means a predisposition to be subjected to constructive dialogue; about the TRUTH, WHAT is right rather than “who” is right.

Only the Word is always True; we humans iteratively correct our fallible understanding and judgements.

A narrative that does not subject to review and correction is the metaphorical cyanide cool-aid; a narrative that corrects itself and adapts to context based on evidence – perhaps this is providence.

[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 21: JANUARY 21, 2022]

Mark 3:13-19. Jesus appoints twelve Apostles

Ordinary Miracles and Active Surrendering

Jesus chose ordinary and sinful men to carry out His Word and ministry. As I mentioned in my previous reflections, I do not think that a faith anchored on supernatural miracles is a strong one. And I build on this insight: I think that a faith anchored on ordinary miracles is a stronger one.

Relying only on the supernatural, from my experience, makes us think we are powerless and insignificant. We begin to misconstrue surrendering as passive, as in quitting or giving up. But to be authentic stewards of God’s love and grace, surrendering should mean that we actively let God be God, with each of us as His instruments.

We are not called to be supernatural, but to push the bounds of the ordinary so we could pursue being extraordinary. The organizations and systems we design and participate in are capable of producing extraordinary virtuous cycles.

Let God take care of the supernatural, while we maximize the potential of the natural and the beautiful ordinary, accumulating good deeds and habits, growing our virtues to be extraordinary.

[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 20: JANUARY 20, 2022]

Mark 3:7-12. Jesus avoids the crowd after his stories of healing spread

“Word” of mouth

Jesus has mentioned to His disciples, those Who he has healed, even towards unclean spirits: do not tell others about Him. Yet, the amazed public are compelled to tell stories about Him.

The challenge with word-of-mouth is that there could be misperceptions and miscommunications. But then, if an ordinary person witnesses an extraordinary or supernatural event, can we blame that person from spreading stories and narratives?

Thus, perhaps the calling for us is to be critical; to postpone judgement, and to seek evidence beyond hearsay. To personally witness actions and miracles, and not merely accept the stories of our friendly Marites.

Jesus understood that people have misconceptions about what a “messiah” could be, and this is relevant in today’s politics. We keep on hoping for “saviors” in the form of politicians or personalities.

But isn’t the message of Jesus to not just blindly follow Him? His message is to pursue the Word, the Truth, to love God, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The apparent ambiguity of the parables is a challenge for us to engage in our own personal journey.

Like stories and mangas, we know the ending of the story: the hero struggles, but ultimately vanquishes the enemy. The goal is clear, but the journey still needs to be undertaken. For fans of One Piece, we know that Luffy will be the Pirate King. He had opportunities to have the One Piece treasure be spoiled to him at the middle of his journey, but he refused shortcuts.

What makes the destination meaningful is the personal journey.

Let’s go beyond word-of-mouth and seek for ourselves the Word.

[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 19: JANUARY 19, 2022]

Mark 3:1-6. Jesus heals during the sabbath

The good that underlies rules and the law

“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”

The legal and the ethical do not always go hand in hand. The example of Jesus shows that it is more important to do good than to blindly comply with the letter of the law.

Businesses and organizations have to operate within the constraints of internal policies and the law. The sad story is when managers find loopholes or technicalities to exploit for greed’s sake, when it can be for pursuing what is good.

For most of us, it is more comfortable to say “we complied with the rules” rather than “we risked breaking the rules for the greater good”. I fully understand this line of thinking. It is safe.

But if we are to be authentically virtuous as leaders, the challenge is to embrace the pursuit of insight and wisdom. It is more difficult. It is uncomfortable. But this may be the way to fully understand the Word.

[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 18: JANUARY 18, 2022]

Mark 2:23-28. The Sabbath was made for man

Integral human development requires adapting to the context

The recent gospels feature the Pharisees questioning why Jesus seems to not follow old traditions and laws to the letter. Jesus responds by giving analogies or encouraging a deeper reflection – apprehending the spirit of the law, not just the letters of the law.

The way we approach education and the sciences seem to be biased towards finding “laws” and deducing implications from these laws. Laboratory experiments and controlled trials are heralded as the best forms of research to find consistent patterns. This may be the case in the natural sciences, but this is not practical in theology, social sciences, and management.

Our society, culture, organizations, and spirituality are always contextually laden. Thus, we owe it to our natural curiosity, our pure desire to know, and our pursuit of well-being and integral human development to engage in a form of holistic insighting.

[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 17: JANUARY 17, 2022]

Mark 2:18-22. No one pours new wine into old wineskins.

Fine Wine

“Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

Our faithfulness and reasonableness cannot be stagnant. If we are to be vessels that can receive the Wine, we too shall prepare and improve ourselves.

In the same vein, businesses and organizations cannot be stuck in the status quo. Scholars and practitioners have extensively written – a truly sustainable business is entangled with the society and the planet. A business that merely exploits communities and the ecology will face the righteous anger of the oppressed and Mother Nature.

If businesses and organizations are to receive the New Wine, the old wineskins of ruthless efficiency and greedy profit maximization should be abandoned. It is not easy. It will require critical and creative thinking to do this. If Rizal has kept on mentioning that the youth is the hope of the motherland, it is on our generation to realize the hopes of our forefathers.

The challenge: we need to be a fresher kind of wineskin, ready to intake the New Wine, so that together, we can age just fine.