This Sunday’s Gospel could raise the question, “If one cannot serve two masters at one time, then is it possible to be a good Catholic and a good citizen at the same time?” As Catholics we live in two worlds, which presents challenges. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom with Christ as our Lord as our master. Yet Christ has sent us into our secular world as his representatives; to be the salt for the earth and the light to the world, even in the midst of governments that can be opposed to the plan and purposes of God. In the New Testament we find the apostles on several occasions admonishing us to “be under the control of magistrates and authorities, to be obedient, to be open to every good enterprise” (Titus 3:1). So as Catholics we should strive to be model civic citizens by obeying laws, paying taxes, etc. However, our responsibility is first and foremost allegiance to Christ as our ultimate master.
Our first duty as good citizens is to pray for our secular leaders. Our liturgy provides for this type of prayer. The general intercessions (prayers of the faithful) usually begin with praying for the church. The second prayer is then offered for civil leaders and governments, followed by prayers expressing other concerns we bring to prayer. The Sacramentary (missal) also contains various prayers and votive Masses that have a civic theme; such as prayers for the nation and those in public office. You may hear these prayers at a liturgy that is not being celebrated on a Sunday or on a day that does not have a specific feast attached to it, such as the 4th of July or Memorial Day.
When you listen to the Scripture this weekend consider what it means to be a good citizen. Also consider what kind of citizen you are being in the kingdom of God. Have you discerned serving on a parish council or pastoral committees? Do you attend the yearly parish meeting? Do you support your parish as you are financially able? Are you involved as a lay minister or catechist? Do you pray for your pastor and parish staff? How often do you volunteer, be it at the parish picnic, stuffing bulletins, working at St. Vincent de Paul or taking prayer time in an adoration chapel?
Lastly, good Catholic citizens should recognize our church flag — the papal flag. Make an effort to check it out: a flag with two vertical bands, one gold and one white with the crossed keys of St. Peter and the papal tiara centered in the white band. Pope Pius XI in 1929 designated this flag as a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church.
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.