Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jesus, Death... and Taxes


And so, it's April 15th. Less than two hours to go.

If you are an American, no further comment is necessary. You know that today is a day of penance, even when it doesn't fall during Holy Week. Of course, not everyone waits until the last minute. Maybe you filed weeks ago. Maybe you're getting a refund.

Still, today is a day that we all must remember the fragility of our lives at the hands of the powers of this world. Even those who benefit from the system know that it is a ponderous, ambivalent, and sometimes capricious patron.

They say that there are two things that cannot be avoided in this life: Death and Taxes. It seems to me not insignificant that the One who embraced death for us all began His life by being enrolled in the census. The Savior of the world was born in Bethlehem with the help of the Roman imperial bureaucracy and its tax system.

Joseph the Builder paid taxes. Jesus paid them too, in the many years of His quiet labor. When God took human nature, He became one of the multitude in the empire of Caesar. He Himself bid us to pay lawful taxes, to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Mark 12:17).

So today, even as we recognize Caesar's authority to tax our money, we remember also that we must render to God what belongs to God, our consciences. Yet God seems so far away when the forces of the world loom over us. It would seem like nothing for worldly power to crush the human conscience if it could not corrupt it.

And if there were nothing but worldly power and then death, what hope would we have? Where would we, who sin for the sake of convenience, find the strength to adhere to truth at all costs?

Only Jesus has defeated death, and in so doing has affirmed that the relationship of the human person to God is greater than every earthly power. Our strength is in Him.

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