This the week after the celebration of Pentecost, day of inspiration, I'm typing out the only homily in my life delivered at Sunday mass-- Pentecost 1984. Twenty six years later, we still wrestle with the same dragon, inordinate funds offered up to the carnage of war, by all sides. It's a hard monster to subdue, especially as we keep in mind the admonition of Thomas Merton: "As St. Augustine would say, 'the weapon with which we would attempt to destroy the enemy would pass through our own heart to reach him.'" We must then choose
our tools for change very carefully, put away all swords.
Homily, Pentecost 1984, St Denis Church, Lexington, MI
In the Act's account of the Pentecost event—they're still in the Upper Room. Then came the strong wind of the Holy Spirit coming down on them as tongues of fire—and they finally did go forth speaking in foreign tongues and making bold proclamation. It had taken awhile for the apostles to get moving. They stayed in the Upper Room afraid to go out, until almost physically blown out by the Holy Spirit, out of their protective walls, into the world to preach Christ's gospel of peace, to their own countrymen, and to all the nations, even to the enemies.
The early disciples' reluctance is something I can understand. It has taken a long time for me to speak out publicly in my church on this issue. My wife Andrea and I have decided that one of the ways we should work for peace is in not paying our federal income tax. We've done this for a number of years, and the money, which would go to support war technology, goes into an account for peacemaking efforts. There is risk in doing this. The IRS will audit us next month.
ishops in their recent pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace , have called for a complete halt to the making of nuclear weapons by the U.S. and Soviets. What a positive challenge of peacemaking if our government would say to the Russians, "We are stopping for six months, let us see if you will follow this real step towards peace." There are many less dramatic works for peace that can be done by each of us. It starts, as our bishops have urged us, with study and reflection on the issue of peacemaking in the light of the gospel, and praying for our individual gifts of the Spirit.
Footnote. The IRS audit shortly after this sermon, we experienced in Mt. Clemens, conducted by a Vietnam vet, resulted in us having to pay back about $840. He was somewhat sympathetic to our views, and the fact that we'd used refused taxes for peace efforts, not just kept the money in our pockets. Undeterred at that point we went on to continue re-directing federal taxes for another 7 years. Working at higher California wages, migrant clinic [Mike] and hospital OB ward [Ande], our peace tax with-holding from IRS surged to over $13,000 [$5000 of this we'd sent to Catholic Relief Services during the first Gulf War in Iraq, to help mitigate damages].
Long story short in 1993, after 15 years plus, both of us successfully making war tax money into peace tax, we settled accounts with the IRS. Family fatigue, and the need to remove liens, for our first mortgage, a house in the city of Port Huron [after 2 homes built with community help and small personal loans at rural KY and MI sites]. Yet, in a real sense over time, we'd made thousands of dollars do the work of peace, even though eventually we'd had to pay that sum again, back to the IRS. Now, in the same house, we're renewing effort to make peace tax a more common cause, with the hope of many joining in to vote with their tax dollars, making more money available for peace, not war.
May God inspire everyone's work of hands and heart, give us courage and strength, for plowshares of gospel peacemaking.
Illumination by Kathy Brahney