Sunday, March 03, 2013

3rd Sunday in Lent (C)
From Vader to Skywalker

Sisters and brothers, do you know who Darth Vader is? How about Anakin Skywalker? I’m sure many of us are aware that these names belong to arguably the single most interesting movie character in the Star Wars series. But although they both belong to a single character, these names also refer to two very different personalities. In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker is a good guy. A powerful Jedi knight. A warrior skilled in the ways of the Force. That mysterious source of all life and energy in the universe. Darth Vader, on the other hand, is a bad guy. A Sith Lord. Although he too is a highly skilled warrior, Vader’s powers come not from the light but from the dark side of the Force.

Anakin & Vader. One single movie character moved by two opposing forces. And one of the things that makes Star Wars so interesting, at least to me, is how Anakin is transformed into Vader, and then back again. In Episode 3 of the series, the highly-talented and idealistic young Anakin is seduced by the dark side of the Force when he allows himself to be driven by jealousy and paranoia. By ruthless ambition and blind rage. So that the darkness gradually consumes him. The further he goes, the more harm he does, both to others and to himself. As the darkness engulfs him, he becomes more like a machine than a human being.

But, fortunately for him, in Episode 6 of the series, an important shift takes place. Darth Vader allows his love and compassion for his son, Luke, to move him to sacrifice his own life in order to defeat the evil emperor. As a result, Vader himself finds salvation. He is transformed back into Anakin. Through the gentle but powerful force of love and compassion, the dark lord is brought back into the light.

Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader. Two personalities living within a single character. Two personas set apart by the conflicting forces that move them. Vader is driven by darkness, and ends up being consumed by it. Anakin is drawn by goodness, which saves him in the end. Anakin and Vader. One life moved by two opposing forces. One good. One bad. One dark. One light. One that consumes and destroys. Another that saves and brings life.

Curious as it may sound, sisters and brothers, we find something similar in our Mass readings today. In the first reading, Moses is attracted to a mysterious bush blazing but not being burnt up. Why, we may wonder, is Moses so interested in the burning bush? Is it only because it is a strange sight? Maybe. But perhaps there is also another reason. Perhaps Moses is interested in the bush because, unlike it, he himself is already burning with a different kind of fire. A fire that is consuming him.

You may recall, sisters and brothers, the events that led Moses into the wilderness in the first place. Remember how, having witnessed a fellow Hebrew being mistreated by an Egyptian, Moses was so driven and consumed by anger, that he killed the Egyptian. And then, fearful that his crime might be discovered, Moses ran away into the desert. Why was Moses so drawn to the burning bush? Perhaps, sisters and brothers, it was also because he wanted to learn more about this mysterious fire that was so different from the one that was burning within him. The fire of anger and resentment. Of guilt and fear. Perhaps it was because he wanted to learn how to burn without being consumed.

And isn’t this precisely the gift that God imparts to Moses in the wilderness? In Moses, God replaces the fire of anger and resentment with something very different. A flame of love and compassion coming from God. A flame that energises without destroying. A flame experienced in God’s deep care and concern for God’s suffering people. I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt, God says. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them to a land where milk and honey flow. Love and compassion, in exchange for anger and resentment. Isn’t this how God saves and transforms Moses? So that when God sends him back to Egypt, Moses returns there a very different person from the one who had fled into the wilderness. Yes, a fire still burns within him. He still wants to set his people free. But it’s a very different kind of fire from the one that burned before.

Like the two types of force in Vader and Anakin, in Moses, we see two kinds of fire burning within a single life. The Moses who fled from Egypt was burning with a fire that destroys. The Moses who returns from the wilderness is ablaze with a life-giving flame.

And don’t we find a similar contrast in the second reading too? Here St. Paul tells us that though Moses led a single people into the wilderness. A single people who ate the same spiritual food, and drank the same spiritual drink. Not all made it to the Promised Land. Why? Because, in contrast to those who made it, those who did not were burning with the wrong fire. They allowed their wicked lusts for forbidden things to consume them. So that they failed to please God, and their corpses littered the desert. Like the barren fig tree in Jesus’ parable, these people failed to bear fruit. All because, like the fearful and guilty Moses who ran away from Egypt, they submitted themselves to a fire that consumed them. Like Vader, in Star Wars, they let themselves be moved by a dark force driving them to their doom.

As with the character in the movie, and also the prophet in the wilderness, we find in the single people of Israel, two opposing forces at work. Two different fires blazing. One destructive. The other life-giving. One enslaving. The other liberating. And can we not say the same for ourselves as well? Both as individuals and as a community. When we look into our own hearts and our own lives, don’t we find a similar ambivalence? A similar ambiguity? On the one hand, the consuming fires of our own greedy ambitions and jealous rivalries. The dark destructive forces of our irrational fears and painful insecurities. But, thankfully, that’s not all. If we look hard enough, it’s also likely that we will also discover the gentle flame of God’s life-giving love and compassion. Ever sensitive to our difficulties and our struggles. Continually offering us consolation and healing, transformation and freedom. And then sending us to share these same precious gifts with others.

Sisters and brothers, isn’t this what we are trying to do in the season of Lent. Or, more accurately, isn’t this what we are trying to make space for God to do in us. Within the wilderness of our Lenten discipline, we examine and deny ourselves in order to allow God to move us from the dark side into the light. To remove the destructive fires in exchange for a life-giving flame.

Sisters and brothers, how does God wish to transform us? How does God wish to transform you from Darth Vader back into Anakin Skywalker today?


  1. God works in His miraculous way.. This is true.

    I remembered some time ago I was feeling unrest and searching for a clear direction from Him. I told Our Lord that He must have some plans for me, this disobedient daughter, as at times, I tested His patience. Yet, He just patiently fed me with His Living Words from the Bible. I have to admit that I am an impatient person, as I prayed to God to show me the way before I turn xx years old.

    In Isaiah 40:31, "But those who hope in Yahweh renew their strength, they put out wings like eagles. They run and do not tire." Slowly, God used my friends as His instruments and invited me to a healing session. During this period, He spoke to me level by level, fed me with his living water and bread.

    God fed me with His living water like a mother weaning her baby. He showed me my direction, and sent me a message in Isaiah 43:18-19 "No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before."

    That instant, I felt His Love and a new life, heart and road appear before my eyes. Our God is a loving and forgiving father. He used His own ways to soften the heart of a hardened sinner and turn me towards Him. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, after spending all that he got from his father and with nothing else, he returned to his father. The father told his other son, "My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”


    1. Indeed, we have a God who is so loving and patient with us - if only we realise it soon during our lifetime and NOT take God for granted!

      if we become more AWARE of God's personal love for each of us - and grow in this awareness - to learn to DWELL in HIS LOVE and REMAIN in HIS EMBRACE, then our lives will never be the same again!

      like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God is patiently watching and waiting for our return, are we ready to turn back and run into His loving arms, once again, this Lent?

      Peace and All Good


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