“Beloved… I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.” (1 Tim 2:1-2)
It is not possible live heaven on earth. There are too many solicitors to sin such as the devil, our flesh, and of course the world itself. When the devil isn’t sowing sin in the heart and strife in society and our flesh isn’t leading us toward fear and doubt, the world is busy prodding us to takes sides against each other. Sinister snares, frightful worries and selfish desires all prevent man from being able to replicate the paradisal kingdom.
This does not mean that we should not raise up heaven as a model for life on earth. Citizens of heaven would lift the word of God as a hedge against the devil; would build up the Spirit as a bulwark against the fears of the flesh, and would elevate the virtues of truth and charity against the vices of avarice and jealousy. Most of all as citizens of the eternal kingdom we would be humble in the knowledge that we cannot find perfection and lasting joy on this earth which is still groaning to become a new creation (Rom 8:22). We would recognize suffering as a mystery, alleviate suffering as an evil, and endure suffering as in imitation of Christ.
And we would pray – constantly. This means that our lives would be a continuous response to an awareness of God’s everlasting presence. Every person would work to heighten their wakefulness to the Holy Trinity though the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our first prayer, being always acknowledgment and praise of the Lord, would spill out into prayerful petition for our needs and the needs of others; and in thanksgiving for what we have received and in contrition for having failed to honor our God-given freedom. We would pray particularly for all in authority either placed there by God or by our common decision; and we would expect our leaders to uphold devotion to the good, the right, and the beautiful so that human dignity would be respected at all stages of life and that peace and tranquility would thrive upon the earth.
In consideration of this we place on our bulletin cover for this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time an image depicting St. Stephen of Hungary and Queen Gisela founding a church at Obuda, which now forms part of Budapest. This work is a colorful illumination contained in the Chronicon Pictum which was completed about 1373 AD, some three hundred and fifty years after the death of Stephen.
Here we see Stephen who united the ancient Magyars into the Hungarian Christian nation, with his Bavarian wife. Both king and queen elevate the church while they themselves are firmly fixed on the earth. They are on their knees, not laying the foundation of the edifice, but presenting an offering to God. As the highest authority of the state Stephen and Gisela are humbling themselves before the authority of heaven. They pray for strength to lead, wisdom to rule, and just judgment to benefit their people. Would that all our earthly leaders learn and practice this same devotion, so we might enjoy a bit of heaven on earth.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services