I am Emily-Frances Marshall. I am so excited to be talking about today’s gospel, if you count talking through a computer as“talking”. I wish there wasn’t this barrier between us, and I wish we were in beautiful St. Johns but, my brother Christopher, whom you may recognize as Christopher Marshall from the prayer list, has had leukemia for almost two years and is immunocompromised, so my family and I have had to take extra precautions during this quarantine. I am sure all of you have also been following the guidelines of social distancing to ensure the safety of anyone else in similar conditions and I would like to say thank you for doing so. I know it is annoying and difficult to do so but I assure you that there are many families, like mine, who so greatly appreciate your efforts.
I was kind of surprised when I was asked to speak today, because I have not been able to attend many youth functions this past year or so. This is mainly due to many factors such as senior year activities, extracurricular activities and family functions. I felt kind of left out because As many of you know the youth group here at st. johns is truly special. Youth group, to me, was a fun and happy place where I could take a break from my busy life and focus on the importance of my faith. In writing this sermon, I somehow got to experience that feeling again, just as I feel everyone should. For me, Taking a break from the craziness of life, even a small break, to focus on what this gospel meant to me and how it relates to God really brought so much more peace to my day. You might wonder how my days are so crazy. “We’re in a quarantine and seniors are considered graduated, it’s basically a vacation for you?”. I promise you, anyone who has ever been bored can tell you that craziness seeps in quickly, especially after weeks of being bored.
I feel like I am not the only one who has found it hard to escape boredom and find that silver lining. It is hardest to see god when the world feels like it is falling down. Yet, this is when he shows himself to us the most.
You have often heard the terms “signs” or “miracles” when learning about how God shows himself to us. This serves as our “proof” that god exists. This sign may be something as miniscule as a cardinal, which many people believe to be a deceased loved one visiting them. This sign may be that a stop light was green instead of red on the way to work or school. Sometimes signs are even when someone can give you advice on a matter, yet not know where the words came from. And, of course we all know of the many miracles god has shown us, by curing illnesses or parting seas. However, you may only see these “proofs” every so often. This does not mean God is only with us every so often. God is always with us.
For Many of us, this is hard to see. We are often like Thomas, who found it difficult to believe that Jesus was with him without having any evidence. How do you know something is there without seeing it? As Jesus said to Thomas in our gospel, “Do not doubt but believe”
Herein lies the concept of “blind faith”. God asks us to believe in him and be true to him. Jesus said “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”. Now, this does not mean that people who question god are not blessed. Jesus sees thomas’ doubt and even asks for Thomas to reach out to touch him so that he may have tangible evidence. He then continues and says “peace be with you”. This shows that God does not strike down on believers who doubt him, instead, he tries to help them even further in seeing him.
As children we are taught by our parents, and Sunday school to believe in christ. Often having active imaginations children are often engaged in singing psalms and reading bible stories with each other. As they grow older however, doubt starts to seep in as they start to see the evil in the world.
For me, whenever I saw evil, be it my brother having cancer, friends commiting suicide, or even just day to day stress the world seemed a very dark place. I sought positivity and light and one surprising place I found it was with my eighty-something year old grandfather. He told me that throughout any problem he has had he tries to never worry about it too much because he knows the man upstairs has a plan and that it will all be okay. That is something that my family has told me ever since.
“God has a plan”. This type of strong and endless faith confused me at first because i couldn’t understand how this one man, who had been through two open heart surgeries, outlived all of his highschool friends and most of his family members, and had to help out his family by starting work at age seven could have so much faith in something he couldn’t see. That is what Jesus meant by “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” He may not be perfect, but my grandfather has shown me the very important concept of blind faith. God refers to people who believe without seeing as blessed because they help to teach others by leading as an example of strong faith.
I sought out faith because I felt that I had not seen enough proof just as many of us do at least once in our lifetimes. There have been and will always be times where our faith is the lowest and we feel like questioning our reality. This is okay. God helps us through these times and shows himself to us every time we are lost and is forgiving of us, even when we turn our backs to him.
Both my grandfather and our youth group personally helped shape me to always remember god is with us. The big miracles and little signs in life are what help push you along in life when you are at your highest, your lowest, and everything in between. You just have to have the mindset that there will always be a sign of god if you are looking. On the other hand, life may throw you a curve ball and those words are easier said than done. Even then, when there appear to be no signs and doubt clouds faith, god is with you. He does not abandon doubters, he helps them and loves them all the same. So, focus on the signs around you. Look for god in everything you do. Because, whether or not you are looking, he is always there.
Emily Frances Marshall
St. John’s EYC member & senior at LAMP