The Body as a Well-functioning Team – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.


“There’s no I in team.” “Chains are only as strong as their weakest link.” “A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together.”

Gag! Give me a break! I groan or yawn when I come across corny or cute quotes about teamwork. Yes, they have their points and they work for some people. But I don’t tend to have one quote or mantra that serves as a guide.

Though, to be frank, I have several pages of helpful quotes and reminders (not about team, but about my life) that I scroll through every now and then, especially if I need inspiration or if I fear that I’m losing my zeal. I’ve probably internalized many of them over the years. If I could, I’d probably put them all on a post-it note and stick it to my forehead.

I find that the experience of good teamwork is not something I can sum up in one quote. I tend to think back to my personal experience of team. There have been a few apostolic assignments in my Jesuit life where I have been fortunate to be associated with a great team of men and women, bound together by a common mission.

It doesn’t just happen. Ongoing work is required to sustain the sense of team, but my experience is that the starting point is a sense of cohesion and being energized by each other. It’s a magical experience when it works with beauty. That experience of team is so easily broken. All it takes is one person, decision or action.

I’ve been part of fantastic teams and I’ve been part of teams that rival any dysfunctional family. I doubt that a motivational poster on the cafeteria wall will solve dysfunction. People use different images to describe teamwork. Many use the image of an orchestra or a choir.

St. Paul uses the analogy of the human body. We get one of his better-known metaphors in today’s reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians – the human body. Paul is primarily speaking of our life in Christ, our common “team” or mission.

“For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.” He goes on to write of how the various body parts work together, in coordination – the foot, the hand, the eye, the ear, the nose, and so on.

“If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.” Paul goes on to apply the metaphor to the manner in which we all work together in the Church.

The Church as well-working body? That’s a nice hope. It’s a dream that we can look toward. Meanwhile, we have to hope that as many members of the team as possible are playing their part. What is your part? And, how do you exercise it? Is there conflict with another player? How do you know when things are working?

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Joan Levy Earle
    Posted at 08:11h, 27 January Reply

    A very good reminder about the effects of good teamwork. Thank you, Father.

    I have spent most of my work life as a loner but was blessed to have discovered the joy of team playing at The Canadian Messenger magaxine.

    A caring Jesuit named Father Fred Power SJ taught me the value of being on a small but effective team. I thank God every day for those lessons learned from him.

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