For Sunday, April 14, 2013
Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
While many Americans consider April 15 to be "tax day," it is not so much a day to pay taxes as it is a deadline for making sure that the report of income is due to the federal government. The vast majority of wage earners have been paying taxes all year long through regular deductions from their salaries. Those who have not been having taxes deducted because their earnings come from self-employment or non-wage sources like dividends or Social Security, typically pay on a quarterly basis, so April 15 is just a day of final reckoning for the year.
The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows Congress to levy an income tax. It was ratified one hundred years ago when Delaware's legislature voted in favor of passage on February 3, 1913, making it the thirty-sixth state to do so. Another six states followed suit in the month that followed, leaving only four states voting against ratification (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Utah, and Virginia) and two that never considered the amendment (Florida and Pennsylvania). Even "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire ratified the amendment—the last state to do so—after having first rejected it two years earlier.
So here we are, one hundred years into the annual collection of income taxes. Many citizens pay nothing in income tax because their income, or the aggregated deductions for their household, limit their tax liability. Wage earners still owe Social Security taxes, which are also deducted from paychecks, so even though someone may be getting a refund, they are not getting back everything that they have paid over the course of the year. Living in a society has consequences, and one of those is taxes. It was Oliver Wendell Homes who said, "Taxes are what we pay for living in a civilized society."
In an op-ed piece in the New York Times on March 31, Duke law professor Lawrence A. Zelenak argued that filing the Form 1040 should be considered an act of civic pride rather than a bureaucratic hassle.
In Sunday's Gospel we hear the story of the great catch of fish followed by Jesus' questioning of Peter. Many of the early Fathers of the Church interpreted the fact that Jesus asks Peter "Do you love me?" three times to be a counterbalance to the triple denial in the Passion. Whether this is what the Gospel writer intended is open to interpretation, but the implication is that there was a price to be paid for what had happened, and a balance that needed to be restored.
Baptism makes us citizens of the kingdom, and as citizens, we have our dues to pay. The Lord is not going to come around asking us to fill out a Form 1040, nor is he going to collect a percentage of what we have earned. But citizenship in the kingdom does demand a payment.
Instead of handing over a check or having a payroll deduction, our "tax" for living in the city of God is a positive contribution to the building up of God's kingdom through our acts of love. Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" and when Peter responded "Yes," Jesus gave Peter a job to do. He didn't tell Peter, "That's nice. Thank you. I'm glad you like me." Instead, Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."
The love of Christ means that we must do something in the world. While some of us may be rushing around on Monday to finish that last minute filing, even as others will be glad that they took care of those forms weeks ago, none of us can escape the real tax that is due: not the one we pay to Uncle Sam, but the tax we pay because we are baptized—a tax of love for all of God's children. It is one that we are supposed to pay each day. The love of neighbor is not a tax we pay for living in a civilized society. Rather, love of neighbor is the tax we pay for being citizens of the kingdom of God.
your Son rose from the dead and revealed himself to his disciples,
commanding them to show love for all people.
Help us to be faithful to your Son's commands.
Make us strong in love and generous in charity
so that your kingdom may be fulfilled
and brought to completion.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
2013 CATHOLIC PARISH WEBSITE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Liturgical Publications Inc (LPi) is sponsoring this second annual contest to recognize the hard work that all church website administrators, developers, and designers do. LPi has been providing churches with the most complete line of publishing and communication services for over 40 years, and wants to acknowledge the time spent designing and maintaining these essential communication tools. The contest is open to all Catholic parishes in the USA. For more info and to enter go to: http://catholictechtalk.com/contests/.
CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH—APRIL 2013
The USCCB has many resources available to promote Child Abuse Prevention Month. Visit: http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/resources/child-abuse-prevention-month-resources.cfm to learn more.
CATHOLIC HOME MISSIONS APPEAL
Many dioceses will take up the annual Catholic Home Missions Appeal Collection the weekend of April 27–28. You'll find parish resources available on the USSCB website at: http://usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/catholic-home-missions-appeal/collection/index.cfm.