Basketball And Jesus


21 January 2011 Memorial of St. Agnes
Hebrew 8: 6-13; Psalm 85; Mark 3: 13-19

If you’re in a sports event and the coach calls for ONLY 12 people, what do you think he is forming? Your guess is probably right: a basketball team. Each team consists of five players. In actual basketball, each team adds 7 more players on the bench in case of injury, foul or to give another player a chance to play and score. So, to form a basketball team, we need 12 people: 5 players and 7 on the bench.

It is not an accident that the Gospel today focuses on the number 12: Jesus appointed Twelve. In addition, it is not a typographical error that the first letter of the word, Twelve, is capitalized. Meaning, to choose 12 and not any other number is a deliberate choice of Jesus. Twelve is the number of Hebrew tribes that settled in the Promised Land. But Israel has been destroyed and all its people has been scattered. The dream of the Jews is a reunion of all who trace their roots to the twelve tribes of yore.

Just as a coach forms a team of 12 for basketball, so Jesus deliberately appoints Twelve to send out the message that He is forming a new Israel. The dream of restoration is now present in Jesus.

But forming a team of 12 has a purpose: to play basketball against another team. The purpose is to win and garner sports awards. Likewise, the Twelve are given a mission to accomplish. In the Gospel of Mark, it is “to be with Jesus, to be sent to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”

The objective of the Apostles is still true today. We are Jesus’ disciples in this present world. How do we live out the mission given to the Twelve?

Let’s go back to the formation of a team. The coach holds the team together. That is why Jesus said that we are to be with Him. Before we are ministers of the Word of God, we are first and foremost disciples of Jesus. Our hearts are solely anchored or tied to Him.

Each player has a unique and specific role within the context of the team. Someone is to be the point guard, the off-guard, the center, the small forward, and the power forward. In the same way, the method we are to preach will be uniquely different from the manner another will spread the Word of God. We do not lose our identity in doing the mission of the Lord. But we are all working as a team in the same vineyard.

Driving out demons is a form of healing. Healing is an act of restoration or renewal. As disciples, are we agents of unity and wholeness? Do we gather people, or do we separate them? Do we strengthen and foster relationships or do we sever friendships and community life?

Jesus is inviting you into His team. Will you play?

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