The date for the celebration of Easter changes from year to year. As a result, this event in the Church’s liturgical calendar will coincide annually with different happenings in the civil one. In 2019, the joyful celebration of Easter happens at the same time as something that tends to bring far less happiness: tax time. April 30th, just around the corner, is the deadline for filing our tax returns.
Now, we all know the familiar saying that there are two things in life we cannot avoid: death and taxes. Each is getting attention right now. While many people are transfixed with the issue of taxes, the Church is focused upon the question of death. In these days, what we hope to hear from accountants or lawyers is how our tax bill might be reduced. What we do hear now from the Church is how death has been not just diminished but in fact defeated altogether!
This is the meaning of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the reason for our hope and joy. By rising from the dead, Jesus has quite literally destroyed the power of death. Death has no power over the love of God. So, when we live in union with Jesus Christ through faith and the sacraments, we live with his power, and thus live in the hope of eternal life. In the resurrection of our Lord, death has been transformed from an end to a beginning; it is now a portal, a gateway leading from this life to the next for God’s faithful people. Death need no more hold us in fear; it no longer has the last word. That final word belongs to God, who has acted in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, to vanquish death and give us the hope of eternal life. Small wonder that the cry of the Church in response is “Alleluia”!
Now, “Alleluia” is not normally the word that spontaneously rises to our lips when we get our tax bill. When there is a tax debt owing, we know that the Canada Revenue Agency does not exactly have a reputation for being merciful. “Alleluia” is, though, the song of Easter, because mercy is precisely the response of God to the far heavier debt of sin. In his passion and death on the Cross, Jesus, the Son of God, assumed to himself the entire weight of the debt of sin carried by humanity since time immemorial. By his rising from the dead, that debt has been cancelled; God’s forgiveness has poured into history and we are set free from the burden. Sin captivates. It entombs us, if you will, seals us within a darkness that blinds us to any cause for hope. When the stone was rolled away from the tomb of Christ Risen, the mercy of God unsealed our own lives. The light breaking forth from the empty tomb of Jesus now enlightens our own emptiness and fills it with hope. Alleluia!
When we complete our tax return, we have to sign a declaration that all the information within it is true. At every Easter Sunday Mass, we “file a return”, so to speak, we make a statement not of our financial position but of our stand in faith. I’m referring to the renewal of our baptismal promises, in which we announce publicly our faith in God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Here, too, we need to declare that what we say is true. This declaration is made not by a signature on a piece of paper but by a way of life marked by peace, hope, joy, and charity. That’s how people see verified, on a daily basis, the faith we proclaim on Easter Sunday.
At this time when we file tax returns, may God grant that the return we make to him at all times be Alleluia, a return of thanksgiving and praise.