John E. Marshall, Jr.'s Blog

Page 1 - Holy Thursday

Page 2 - Emergence

Page 3 - Where Is God Located?

Page 4 - Words

Page 5 - Faith, Hope & Love

Page 6 - What God's Voice Telling Us

Page 7 - Are We Wrapped Up Too Much in Earthly Things?



by John E. Marshall, Jr. | 2015

Imagine that scene. You know, the scene in our Gospel reading today,  Matthew 13, that tells of Jesus sitting beside the sea, talking to great crowds of people and your are one of those people. Imagine how beautiful it could have been, to be sitting by that sea listening to His words. Calming words. Loving words. Instructive words. Words of wisdom and kindness at the banks of the sea. In our tradition, listening to Him is what guides us. Listening to Him is what directs us to Love, how to Love, how to be Love, in our lives.  He directs us to our comfort and joy. Peace dwells with Him to us. He tells us not only about life, but also how to Live. His life is our instruction. Our map on what to do and what we should be focusing on while doing in this life. He is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life.

So, imagine what it could have been like to hear His words spoken by that sea. It had to be some kind of awesome. Life changing. Well, they are still life changing if one were to pay deep and contemplative attention to what He is saying.  That’s the problem. We get so hung up into everything but real meaning. I suspect that is why Jesus spoke so much in parable. Why our Bible is so idiomatic and storytelling. So that we are forced to contemplate meaning.  Not merely paying attention to words literally, but allowing those words to pierce us with their meaning and bust open the crust we all have in our hearts and let the love just pour out. Nothing can ever be written, spoken, or felt about God if it is not steeped and drenched in Love because we know God is Love. That is how God works. Words by themselves are dead. They are symbols of deeper meaning. We must dig deep and find God. We must dig deep and find the utter Love. That is really,what it means to be a follower of Christ. Digging deep and finding the Love and letting no crust stop you.

So, imagine sitting there, while sitting on a boat, and hearing Him say this to you: “Listen!” If Jesus says that, I suspect you had better listen. He says, “A Sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But, when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears Listen! Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what is sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Ruminate on that for a while. Deep huh? What seeds do you just drop on the path, willy nilly, with nary a thought or intention? What seeds do you drop on rocky ground, not letting what you experience go deep enough, and while you know its value, you do not let it take root enough to really take hold and become a part of you? What good do you avoid? What are the thorns in your life that choke you? You can bet they are the things in this world that denies the value of Love.  The superficial things. The peripheral things that really have no meaning.

Again, imagine being there listening to this from our Lord. But, you don’t have to imagine, do you? Remember, we are in the 5th Sunday of the Pentecost. The power and the depth that is God, that is Jesus Christ lives right there inside of you. That is what is this season is about. To recall that. To recall the power and depth of God that lives in each of our hearts through the Holy Spirit. All we have to do is to delve deep and barrel through the crust that we have allowed to accumulate around our hearts and penetrate it and let the Love, Compassion, kindness, and forgiveness bust through. That is the good soil.

The crust comes from our past most of the time. They are our fears, disappointments, our pain, our memories of being wronged, doing wrong, or just plain things that simply happened before that has brought us discomfort. Though they can be informative the solution to whatever problems we have, and we all have them, solutions do not lie in the past. The solution to any problem or set of problems lies in our ability to build or plant. We build our futures from the materials that are within our reach in the now. We need to plant the seeds and nurture what we plant, and that could only flourish with the seeds that we find in the Hope contained in the now. To come to solutions we need to do what we can, plant or build, in the now, and then lie in the meadow and soak in the Sun of the Grace of what God has already given us in the now, and just chill.

Your past can only inform you to what has happened before your now. It, by itself, cannot give birth to anything but ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and monsters that haunt you, and are not even real anyway. Real comes in the building and planting. We need to do what we can with what’s available to us. And don’t forget to chill when we’re done. Bask in the Grace that God gives us all.

Too often, we allow our past rocky roads, our past thorns, and our past thoughtlessness to haunt us. Some of us, if not all of us, sometimes try to hide them in the closet, knowing that they are there but never really facing them. Letting them scare us to death in the now. The fact of the matter is that your past is dead. It happened and could never come alive again unless you give it life. When we lock the hurtful things of our past in the closet or do not face them, we allow them to live, at least in our minds. When we face them, we can see them for what they really are. Not alive, but dead. Yet, they could still be of use. They could be the compost we use to make the good soil that Jesus talked about in Matthew 13. You know what compost is, right? It is that dead, icky, often smelly stuff we use to help fertilize our soil so our plants can grow and flourish. Carrying it around would be of no use to us. It will make you reek of stink and death. Holding onto it will just mean you are carrying dead weight. The dead of our past needs to be buried so that our future fruits may be able to take root and flourish.

Again and unfortunately, we often let the fears, disappointments, and failures of our past stalk our thoughts and hearts like monstrous predators and let them debilitate, or worse, set ourselves on fire when facing our present or looking to our futures. To prevent this, I think we must be deeply aligned with our capacity to forgive, come to understanding, and deeply love unconditionally. Especially ourselves. Then and only then can we properly seed our futures with produce that will inspire growth and nourishment and not deterioration and poison.

It takes a Faith that is deep to do this. It takes a Love that is deep to do this. It takes a burrowing down into your heart to release the Holy Spirit within it, the Love, to do this. Look at our first reading today, Genesis 25. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, was supposed to be barren, wasn’t she? As a matter of fact, wasn’t Sarah, Abraham’s wife, supposed to be barren, too? Yet, God allowed so that both Sarah and Rebekah bore children and that line turned out to be the great nation that is part of the principle of our Faith.

So, what I am saying here is give yourself a break. Do what you can do in your present with the tools that God has given you. Don’t forget your past or your past hurts, but use the sheer power of forgiveness to make it useful. Use it as the compost to make your current soil good. Without that forgiveness, you will make it have an acid like effect and it will burn whatever you try to grow. Once you have used everything that you can think of that is around you that can help you, plant and relax. I am here to tell you that worry or bitterness does not go well with Hope. And you need Hope in order to grow anything that is of any good. The main thing that needs to be forgiven is yourself. Especially the yourself that is in your past.

I know, I know, that is not an easy thing to do. Most all of us have done things in our recent past that we are not proud of. Seriously, most of us have done things that we are not proud of yesterday. Learn from it, forgive, and move on. Bury it and use it for growth. Don’t just keep carrying it around. Cease being haunted and hunted down by things that are not even real or alive anymore.  Love is the only thing, when it comes right down to it, that is real. Hope, Faith, Compassion, Kindness, Forgiveness, and Peace are all the food of Love.  Love is really the only fruit that is worth bearing in the first place. Everything about Jesus Christ’s Way is about Love. Everything about God is Love. If you do anything or profess anything in the name of Jesus or God that is not positively drenched in Love, your Jesus or God is an imposter and someone I never ever want to know.

Plant your seeds today in the soil that is good. Hint: the only good soil is filled with Love. Do that and then sit back and watch your miracles grow. Remember, miracles are everyday things. What happened when you opened your eyes this morning? You experienced the miracle of God bringing you a new day, didn’t you? Essentially, He killed your past, your yesterday, and brought you back to life so that you may move further on your path to grow more closely to Him. That should be your real goal, everyday. Sure, as a human, you are bound to make some mistakes or errors here or there, but do your best and plant your seeds for a future that will bring you closer to God. In all likelihood, God will grant you the miracle that is tomorrow to get even better at it. Take each day and Love as hard as you can. Love with all the might that you have. I guarantee, if you put enough Love in your soil, you will produce plentiful and outstandingly sweet fruit.  Remember, Jesus is sitting in a boat in your heart, talking to you right now. Dig deep enough so that you may hear Him. Let the Way of His Life tell you what to do and then do it. Then relax and feel the Sun of His Grace warm you until it is time to plant again in the morrow.

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Social Security Administration:
Chicago Metropolitan Area Work Incentives Coordinator · January 1983 to present · Chicago, Illinois I am the point person for the agency in the city for issues surrounding people with disabilities and work. I am also the point person for the agency in the city for issues surrounding the homeless. I represent the agency in coalitions boards, and other organizations to establish joint policies, programs, and events that seek to engender and facilitate work for people with disabilities and help to entitle the homeless to Social Security benefits. I am also the coordinator for 28 Work Incentive Liaisons/Technical Experts located in all 20 SSA offices in metro Chicago.

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University of Chicago:
Masters · School of Social Service Administration · Chicago, Illinois

Northeastern Illinois University:
Class of 1984 · Sociology · Chicago, Illinois

Mendel Catholic College Preparatory High School
Class of 1977 · Chicago, Illinois

Bradley University
Peoria, Illinois

John E. Marshall, Jr.





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