Live this prayer

    March 8, 2024

    Our Gospel today asks a simple question, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” What a treasure to know the answer to this question.

    Every day of Jesus’s life, Mary and Joseph prayed with him the same prayer each morning and evening. From the day of his birth in Bethlehem, through the exile in Egypt, and then as he grew into a young man at Nazareth they prayed in good times and in bad and taught Jesus to do the same.

    Their prayer was said aloud as testimony of their belief — as was the custom for all Jewish people even unto this day — and comes from the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy — Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad! Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!

    We might call it a centering prayer that starts and ends the day with an acknowledgment that it’s not about us, it’s about God. All things are not under our control, but all things are part of His Divine Providence. That there is one God who is creator and master. And this God is “Our God.” Such a simple statement allowed Mary, Joseph and Jesus to let the anxieties of life melt away. “I acknowledge you, Lord, that you have a plan for me and that I am yours!” What a relief.

    But this is only the first half! “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Notice that he is not “my” God, but he is “Our God.” We are all bound together. Each of us live through Him and with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. He is Our Father, who art in Heaven. We have a shared origin and a common hope. How can we then not love our neighbors and help them to discover this great treasure who is our Savior? And living in communion calls for us to care for the physical and mental needs of our neighbors, especially those most vulnerable. Of course, we endeavor to do just this with every tangible act of love in each of our ministries and apostolates.

    If we live this prayer, as did the Holy Family, we will truly come to recognize that, “There is no other commandment greater than these.”

    Deacon Kevin M. Sartorius serves as the CEO for Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma.

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