Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesday in the 4th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest
Confronting Darth Vader

Readings: Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15; Psalms 103:1-2, 13-14, 17-18a; Mark 6:1-6

Sometimes it’s quite amazing how much theology and spirituality one can learn from a movie…
For some time now they’ve been playing and replaying the 6-episode Star Wars saga on the Star Movies channel. Last night I caught some of the third episode: Return of the Jedi. The climax of the story is the final showdown between the hero, Luke Skywalker, and the evil Emperor and his apprentice, Darth Vader, who is also Luke’s father. Strangely perhaps, our Mass readings bring to mind some aspects of the story. In a sense, although the final confrontation might well result in Luke’s own death, and although Luke has the option of running away, he really has no choice but to face his father if he is to complete his training in the Force and become a full-fledged Jedi knight. In this sense, it is his destiny. And it is a destiny which he willingly embraces, finding the courage to do so in his apparently irrational and impossible desire to help his father turn back from the dark side. In the final climactic battle, as Luke defends himself against all that the evil Emperor and his own father throw at him, he experiences the temptation to give in to his own natural reactions of anger and fear and the desire for revenge, and in so doing to slide down the path leading to the dark side

What possible connection does this have with our readings today?

Isn’t it true that, whether we like it or not, each one of us has our own Darth Vaders to face – those dark areas in our world, in our lives, in our hearts, from which we often wish we could simply run away? Yet it is our destiny to confront and to triumph over them. And, in some perhaps inexplicable way, suffering has a crucial role to play in the process. Isn’t this what the first reading is getting at when it says that suffering is part of your training? Of course, we need to realize that not all suffering is due to our own fault. Suffering afflicts the guilty and the innocent alike. And indeed it often needs to be resisted and denounced. But isn’t that also part of the process by which we are led to confront the darkness in the world and in our own hearts?

Also, in this confrontation, it is important that we resist the temptations that Luke faced in the movie. It is important that we not let feelings such as anger and disillusionment, or skepticism and despair overwhelm us. As the first reading reminds us: be careful… that no root of bitterness should begin to grow and make trouble; for then we ourselves become pawns of the very thing against which we struggle.

All this sounds very complicated and difficult. Too much for us to understand let alone carry out. Isn’t that why, especially during this period of Ordinary Time, it is important for us to let our gaze remain fixed upon Jesus as he carries out his public ministry? In a sense, he did not have to confront the darkness. He did not have to endure the painful rejection that we see him experiencing in the gospel today. He did not have to sacrifice himself. Yet he did, and for the same reason that Luke chose to confront Vader: for love -- love of us and of his heavenly Father.

How are we being led to confront our own Darth Vaders and so play our part in the salvation of the Galaxy today?

1 comment:

  1. My former boss (the Dean of school), an absolutely committed Christian, is an ardent fan of Star Wars. He was such a big fan that, at every opportunity, he used the modern day parable of Star Wars to teach moral truths and to evangelize, so when Fr Chris mentioned Darth Vader and the Jedi, warm memories of him came rushing back. When he retired as Dean, those of us who heard his Star Wars story often enough, got together to buy him a complete, authentic set of Star Wars memorabilia, replete with laser sabre! What else?

    You see, both he and I (and those on the side of truth) lived and worked in true life situations which parallel the Star Wars epic - a constant struggle against darkness. In some instances, I dare add that "Star Wars" pales in comparison to our experience.

    The inter-galactic battle between good and evil is played out every day in ordinary life. I'm glad Fr Chris drew the parallel between what Star Wars portrays and our very own Christian beliefs. You see, in real life, the dark side is far from dark; indeed it is alluring even seductive in its glitz and glamour. Those in "the dark side" get all the accolades, acclaim and awards while the rest of us mere mortals are left to plod along, depending entirely on providential Goodness. Like Jesus on the cross, sometimes we cry out in the silence of our hearts, "My God, my God why have you forgsaken us?". My friends, evil is very much alive and kicking in the world today. The frightening thing is that it manifests itself in ways that the world holds up as noble, desirable. In a sense, I am glad that I came "up close and personal" with the forces of darkness because (i) I can now appreciate how much more desirable goodness is, and (ii) I've had my baptism of fire and, through the grace of God, came through pretty much unscathed.

    I am at once invigorated and chastised by Fr Chris' advice not to let bitterness or vindication or acrimony get the better of us because then we "become pawns of the very thing (evil) against which we struggle". Chastised because in my human weakeness, I did wish the earth would open up to swallow evil up. We do this by being focused on Jesus and, in my own personal experience, through fellow believers whose faith is so strong and unswerving that you find in it a bulwark against the onslaught of evil.

    Yue Chee Yoon doesn't wear his Christian faith on his sleeve but boy, his evangelization is so awesome through the way he lives and interacts with others. He is my Luke Skywalker.

    The Force is with us; some feel Him more intensely than others, but He is certainly with us.