Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Windex Index

Now that non-essential government jobs are once again secure, the pastor of Our Lady of Infinite Mercy Church fielded a call earlier this week from the IRS.
“Is this Msgr. Santoro?”
“It is.”
“Can you help us verify some financial information?”
“I can.”
“Do you have a parishioner named Matthew Conte?”
“We do.”
“Is it true he made a $10,000 contribution to your parish?”
“He will.”

As a civic virtue, fiscal honesty is as lauded as transgressions against it are despised, especially when done by someone else! At this time of year fudging a little on a tax return is a hard temptation to resist. Who would know, really? And if this becomes an annual gamble, the next question is: How long can I get away with it? I might justify it on any number of pretexts, but tax evasion is not something to wink at, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us in its section on economic activity and social justice.

Much is made these days of transparency, disclosure, and justice—rightly, I think. The interesting thing is that for it to “take” in us and in society, it can’t be imposed from without. It springs from within. It’s an attitude, a way of life. That’s not to say that laws are unnecessary: not everyone is equally devoted to the way of God. It means that to the degree that we are open, forthright, and in the case of us Christians, aware that our baptismal consecration has made us Christ’s, to that degree we are likely to live in truth without being forced to by law.

This is what Paul referred to in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians. He would not deny the goodness of the Torah and its Mosaic law, much less of law in general, but saw it as an outgrowth of a life lived in the Spirit. This Spirit makes us “living Words” of God, through the power of Christ shining in our lives. This power is ours through Baptism, by which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit come and make their home within us (cf. Jn. 14:23; Mt. 28:19). If the Trinity lives in us, God makes us transparent witnesses to the risen Christ, who is himself the radiant light of the Gospel.

This transparency involves mind, will, heart, spirit, and even body. Blessed James Alberione, our founder, wrote: “Even if the sun is shining brilliantly, its light cannot pass through a grime-encrusted windowpane. The Gospel shines brilliantly—“I am the light of the world”—but if that light cannot shine through us because our heart and life are not in order, then what will happen?” He adds other words of Jesus from Mt. 5:14: “You are the light of the world,” then concludes: “[Jesus] means to say: ‘Think of it! I have been the light of the world, but now it is you who are the light of the world.’”

The Church’s pastors, teachers, and administrators—clergy, religious, and lay—are called to this transparency, too! It’s not just something mandated for others. Otherwise, where would be the credibility? How then could the Church as a whole be a transparent witness to the risen Christ to a world that rightly expects it of her?

The Constitutions, or rule, of the Daughters of St. Paul impress this upon us, especially where they describe what our chastity and poverty should be. It is imperative for us who are expressly called to mission, “to become a communication of Christ’s love even in the demanding field of social communications” growing in “a great respect for the human person and for authentic values,” and rejecting “the temptation to change the means of mission into instruments of power, profit, or ambition.” Justice and love for our sisters, our co-workers, and all those we serve has to govern our decisions, just as they inform our prayer and our message.

So, come June, when that tax refund is dropped into your bank account or mailbox, and the sun shines just a little brighter, may you accept it with a heart that’s more free, more at peace, and more ready, even practically speaking, to bless the One who lives there.

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