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

In this, the 11th Sunday after the Pentecost, our scripture readings are full of the notion of Hope. Indeed, the Pentecost, our celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit and our tradition’s recognition of it, is infused with Hope. This is the season where we recognize the powerful presence of God within us all, in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Comforter. The Encourager.  Make no mistake, when we come to God, we come with Hope. I submit that we cannot come unto Love, God, without Hope. That is how we recognize real Love, for Hope is one of the essential ingredients of Love. When someone gives us Love, Hope comes with it as a residual.And we simply cannot hold onto the immense power of Love without Hope. Think of Love like a wave, a wave where nothing can block it or stop it, when it is true. It has the capacity to barrel through anything and any attempt to stop it or imprison it will make you its road kill. We can only ride it, and when we do, it can help us through anything. I liken Hope to be the reigns we can use in which to ride such a powerful wave such as Love. It is our Hope that helps us to recognize God and His Love for us and we learn from God how to Love each other and, subsequently infuse others with Hope, as well.

I suspect we all have read or at least come across Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, about love. It is quite the powerful description of Love.  However, we often take the words of Paul, written in the Bible, out of context. When reading the 1st letter or 2nd letter of Paul to the Corinthians, we should remember that Paul had a special message to give to the church in Corinth. The Corinth Church had many in it that tended to separate themselves from each other and it was a church divided. For example, people in it tended to divide themselves by the individual gifts that they had. They seemed to not absorb the message that Paul was saying in the Epistle for this Sunday, the second reading, Romans 12. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body, we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” Paul’s 1st and 2nd letters to the Corinthians were meant to help eliminate the artificial separations its members placed among each other and get them to truly understand what being a follower of Christ and Love was all about. His instructions to the Church in Corinth were to bring it into a greater unity.  Chapter 13 went specifically into the notion of Love.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

This is the often quoted part of 1Corinthians 13. “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Indeed, the greatest of Faith, Hope, and Love is Love. What I am saying is that you cannot have Hope nor Faith without Love. It is our Hope that brings us to Faith. But it is Love that contains all that is good in this world. An essential ingredient in Love is Faith. An essential ingredient in Love is also kindness. Also contained in Love, unconditional Love, the most powerful Love of all, is forgiveness. The forgiveness of others. And  this is of primary importance in Loving, the forgiveness of self. And, yes, one of the most essential ingredients of Love is Hope.

This world can be a nasty and dark place. At every turn it seems to make us succumb to the notion that all Hope is false Hope. Who can look at all the killing in this world and not be discouraged? Who can look at how others are raped, used, disrespected, violated, and discarded, and not feel their inner Light dimmed just a bit? With all the selfishness and self-serving in this world, the misfortunes and basic needs just not being met by many in this world, who would not be prone to a, sometimes, overwhelming sense of hopelessness?

We have all had our instances where we felt that all was lost and that there was no hope at all. The feeling of hopelessness can make you feel and see such darkness that you cannot see Love at all. But we need Love, with all its power, to conquer all of these things that darken our lives. We need Love, sometimes, to infuse us with Hope. This is what makes being kind and compassionate so important. When we show compassion, show kindness, when we release ourselves to be able to forgive, we demonstrate the power of Love and infuse it with the rest of these things to another who may feel otherwise hopeless.

Our first reading, today, Exodus 1, told of an Israelite people that had plenty of struggles in which it very well could have lost hope. It spoke of the enslavement of the Jewish people. Pharaoh foresaw that, with grow in numbers of the Jewish people, they were a threat to Egyptian power and that they needed to be made weakened by enslavement. But still they grew. He then made an order that all Jewish births that brought forth boys should be killed. For sure, all Hope for the Jewish people could have been extinguished with this. But one Levite woman hid one of her male children from this fate and when she felt that she could no longer hide him, she put him in a basket and put him into the river. It had to take a lot of Hope to do that. She had her sister follow him along the river to see what would be his fate. It turns out that the daughter of the Pharaoh took him as her son. We know that male child to be Moses and he ultimately became Hope personified to the Israelites.

You see, the existence of God in our lives, the existence of Love in our lives, brings us reason in which to Hope, even among the most dire of circumstances. God’s Love is powerful and it can power us through anything. It is with that Hope that we KNOW we can get through anything put before us. We tend to lose hope when we do not see the Love of God. What’s funny is that the Love of God exists within us all. When we lose sight of that, we tend to lose all sense of Hope in our lives. When we see that power of the Love of God inside of us, Hope becomes restored. Yes, the stories and messages in the Bible are full of Love, when read correctly, but they are also filled with Hope. Light is Love and where there is Love, Hope is not far away. It is easy to get so caught up with what is happening in our individual circumstances and have it cloud our perceptions of Hope. That is why it becomes so important to cling to it. Our lives virtually depend on it. This is not to say that there won’t be any sadness in our lives. We simply will not always win and get everything we want in our life. When these things happen, I think, they are meant for us to become stronger and change us in a way in which we can be better. This combined with the Hope in our hearts will make us to be better you’s and me’s. When it comes right down to it, darkness is a façade. It only exists for us to cut through it and see more Light. If we let darkness overcome us, we let the toils and troubles of our lives overcome us, we put on the shackles to our own feet. The promise of Light is Hope and it is what makes us move forward and out of our darkness’s, troubles, and current toils. Standing still is just not an option. We must move forward. We must work to get to our Light. It is our Hope that makes us move our feet to seek out the Love amid the darkness and come to our saving. Hope in most cases takes work and effort. It is what inspires us to not give up. Riding the wave of Love should be all of our goals, and as I said before, we need Hope, at least some semblance of Hope, if we want to ride it.

As it is said, Hope seen is not Hope at all. I find our Gospel today, Matthew 16, very interesting. Jesus, there, asks the apostles what the people say about who He is. “And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.’” You see, it was Hope that got Peter to see God. To see that God loved His creation so much that He sent Jesus to show the Way of Love. Because of the Love of God and the Love of Jesus we are infused, quite rightly, with Hope.

Our Psalms today, Psalms 124 also is drenched in this type of Hope. “If the Lord had not been at our side, let Israel now say; If the Lord had not been on our side, when enemies rose up against us; Then would they have swallowed us up alive in their fierce anger toward us; Then would the waters have overwhelmed us and torrent gone over us; Then would the raging waters have gone right over us. Blessed be the Lord! He has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

So, church, I tell you today, never ever, give up Hope. Yes, there will be times where it would seem easy to do, but never ever give up. Just when things are at their darkest is when light tends to shine its mighty brightness. Get acquainted with that Holy Spirit within you and try to connect to it, always. Connecting to it will help you to find your way, no matter how dark and dank it seems. It is through this Hope that we will find our Faith. And it is through this type of Faith that we will find God. That we will find Love. Never let anyone tell you, including yourself, that all Hope is lost. It never really is. Haven’t you noticed, most of the time when we do say to ourselves all Hope is lost, some somebody comes over to Love us and prove us wrong? There you have it. Never give up. The Love of God resides within you and there is no circumstance or situation more powerful than Him. Losing Hope just makes no sense, then. So don’t.

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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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