By Kathy Coffey
The First Commandment: “I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me (Exodus 20:2-3).” Newspapers carried the story of a father who was boating with his son and the boy’s friend. When a strong, unexpected current carried the children overboard, the dad rescued them both. But after dragging them to safety, he could not save himself and drowned. We can speculate about the gratitude the son, his friend, and their families will carry throughout their lives. Every breath they take is, in some sense, a gift from and a tribute to the heroic father who saved them. When people do us a big favor, we can rarely repay them. We breathe gratitude and cannot say thanks enough.
The extreme thankfulness that recipients must feel gives us a clue about the First Commandment. When we read about God freeing the Hebrews from Egypt, it is hard to relate. Few of us know slavery firsthand. Hearing about people who are slaves today, many of them children, we are appalled. We can only imagine what it means when someone unlocks the prison door and says: “You are free.” To forget such a liberator would be the worst ingratitude.
After a gift like the one the Hebrew people received, how could they ignore God? How could they even think of worshiping anyone or anything else? Before we get too high and mighty, scorning those ungrateful Jews, we should look at the ways God has freed us. Our situation may not be as obvious as imprisonment, but there are other, subtler forms of slavery. Some are caught in addictions to gambling, smoking, drugs, or alcohol. Others are trapped in unhealthy habits, fears, and relationships. From all of these, God is the ultimate liberator, freeing us in ways that surpass what we can do for ourselves.
Whatever our particular circumstances, God has freed us from something. And how gratefully do we respond? We probably need a reminder to put God first as badly as the Hebrews did. If we say that we belong to God completely and wholeheartedly, how do we show it? Do we set aside time each day to reflect on God’s ongoing action in our lives? For harried commuters, this can be done at stop signs! Do we fall asleep naming the ways that God was present in our days and the blessings he brought? If we take this commandment seriously, it will be reflected in our calendars and checkbooks. How do we spend our time and money?
If we really want to know what this commandment means, we should look at the way it operates in Jesus’ life. He is passionately caught up in the love of his Father. His primary goal is pleasing God. Inspired and heartened by God, he responds constantly to God’s initiatives. Prayer punctuates his life. He often withdraws to renew his delight in God and to be strengthened by their time together. During this time, he must experience God’s love, listen for God’s guidance, and imagine God’s face.
Jesus shows us what it means to belong to God. During his agony in the Garden of Gethsemene, every human instinct rebels against the course ahead, but he holds fast to whatever the Father asks. If we can share in this all-consuming love, it places us in the House of God at all times. As Jesus’ joy and compassion show us, that is a far better place to live than the house of slavery.
About the Author: Kathy Coffey is an award-winning author, educator, and retreat leader. She is also a regular contributor to Bringing Home the Word, which is a weekly resource for prayer and reflection at home. A new edition is posted every weekend on our website (see link below).
Lent with Our Lady
Six Weeks of Spiritual Exercises
PRAYING FOR GOD’S MERCY, HEALING & PROTECTION
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport’s twin goals have been to do whatever we can to protect the health and safety of our parishioners and to provide free and high quality spiritual nourishment online. We are grateful for your kind words of encouragement and support for our efforts during the past year.
As we journey together through a second Lent under difficult circumstances, all are invited to join us for a series of daily and weekly spiritual exercises called Lent with Our Lady. All parishioners are encouraged to pray each day with two special prayers for the special intention of God’s mercy, healing, and protection from the coronavirus. Just click on the links below:
Daily Prayers for Lent
The Angelus Prayer is offered traditionally offered three times every day as a way to sanctify our work, our meals, and our rest. About this powerful prayer, Pope Francis writes: “The Angelus Prayer is a beautiful and popular expression of faith. It is a simple prayer, recited at three specific times a day. It thus punctuates the rhythm of our daily activities: in the morning, at midday, and at sunset. It is an important prayer that I encourage each one of you to recite.”
In addition to our daily prayers, Father Jim and Cliff Garvey will offer six weekly reflections on spiritual communion, the spirituality of the Angelus Prayer, and the powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother within the context of the Holy Season of Lent. Last week, Cliff shared a special podcast about how the recent death of his beloved dog, Linus, and the response from our fellow parishioners have much to teach us about what keeps us together even when we can’t gather together in person. Cliff also produced a bonus podcast featuring the Litany of the Sacred Wounds, an ancient devotion composed and prayed daily by Saint Clare of Assisi. This week, Father Jim shares a video reflection about his personal experience with the Angelus Prayer which began during his years of priestly formation at Saint John Seminary where the Angelus is still recited each day before lunch. Just click on the links below:
Weekly Reflections for Lent
- Listen: Losing Linus: A Story of Spiritual Communion
- Listen: The Litany of the Sacred Wounds
- Watch: Reflecting on the Angelus with Father Jim
During Lent, when so many people are sick, suffering, or struggling to make ends meet, it is more important than ever that we pray together even when we can’t be together. It is more important than ever that we join together in prayer for God’s mercy, healing, and protection — for our sake and for the sake of the whole world. Pope Francis says: “Have courage. Pray in every moment and every situation so that the Lord may come near to us. When we pray according to the heart of Jesus, we make miracles.” As our Lenten journey continues, let’s begin again: to love each other, pray for each other, and pray for the God’s grace to make this a better world. In short, let’s make some miracles — together!
Pray More: CCGR Resources
Pray More: Assisi Project Resources
Call to Prayer
United by Love
A PRAYER FOR LENT BY POPE FRANCIS
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
let us ask the Lord Jesus,
who has made us living members of his body,
to keep us deeply united with him,
to help us overcome our conflicts,
our divisions, and our self-seeking;
and let us remember that
unity is always better than conflict!
And so, may he help us be united
with one another by one force:
the power of love
that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts.
Glory to the Father,
to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
The Assisi Project
A Franciscan Night Prayer
Let’s Pray Together!
Saint Paul writes: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of the God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16).” For centuries, Christians have puzzled over what it means to pray without ceasing. But one ancient practice provides an answer: the Liturgy of the Hours. Since the Middle Ages, the Church has used a daily practice of prayer called the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours to mark and sanctify the various hours of the day: morning, afternoon, evening, and night. It is based on a four week cycle of psalms, canticles, and scripture readings that calls us into a deeper relationship with Christ and the Church bringing us together through prayers of praise, petition, intercession, and thanksgiving.
At ordination, deacons and priests make a solemn promise to pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day, using a book called the Breviary. But the Divine Office is not just for the clergy and those consecrated to religious life. Countless lay people around the world make the Liturgy of the Hours part of their daily prayer and worship. Indeed, when we pray these prayers, whether alone or in community, we are united in a powerful spiritual communion that helps to heal, redeem, and consecrate our sick and suffering world.
Unlike the other hours of the Divine Office, Compline (or Night Prayer) works on a seven day cycle. Every Sunday, the prayers are the same. Every Monday, the prayers are the same. And so on. According to the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours: “Night Prayer is the last prayer of the day, said before retiring, even if that is after midnight.” And about this form of prayer, Pope Francis says: “I am very attached to the Breviary…It is the first thing I open in the morning and the last thing I close before going to sleep.”
In this spirit, in solidarity with Pope Francis, and in communion with Christian disciples around the world, the Assisi Project invites you to join us in offering A Franciscan Night Prayer. This newly created version of Night Prayer includes the traditional psalms, readings, and canticle of the day. It also includes antiphons, readings, and a Marian devotion from the spiritual tradition founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. A Franciscan Night Prayer can be prayed by listening to one of our free podcasts or by praying with the printable version. See links below! Let’s pray together! It’s a great way to end the day! Each podcast is less than ten minutes!
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Sunday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Monday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Tuesday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Wednesday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Thursday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Friday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Saturday
For more information about the Assisi Project and its good work in our parishes, please see Father Jim or contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of Angels, pray for us! May the Lord give you peace!
Safe & Easy Electronic Giving
Electronic giving is available at both Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. It is safe and simple to make online donations to your home parish using a credit cared or debit card. Donations can be made on an ongoing or one-time-only basis. And it takes just a few minutes to set up a secure personal account. For assistance or more information about this important fundraising resource for the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your generous support for our parishes during these difficult times! Peace, blessings, and many thanks to all!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Working together as a Roman Catholic community united in prayer, fellowship, and service, we are committed to living the Gospel of Christ, sharing God’s love and mercy with all people, and rebuilding the Church in Gloucester & Rockport. All are invited! All are welcome! Always!
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In Memory of Salvatore Costanzo