Be Merciful Like a Skywalker

Angels, after all, can be called skywalkers, and there are few characters in fiction more like a fallen angel than Darth Vader. Yet Vader was redeemed in the end by the love of his son, and his son’s mercy.

By Chris Sparks

“[S]ome day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again – C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

May the Fourth be with you!

Star Wars is one of the greatest modern stories of the conflict between good and evil on the market. It’s certainly not perfect, as many of its fans will tell you, let alone the criticisms that tend to come from within the Protestant community. And yet the blockbuster franchise to launch all blockbuster franchises still conveys many truths about the dignity of every person, the importance of fighting for the good, and not assuming someone else will make the sacrificial play.

But it isn’t simply allegory. Forgive me a quick tangent: The great Catholic fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien disliked allegory. That’s why his Lord of the Rings series is like a diamond, with many facets, all refracting the light of the Gospel, of history, of his Catholic faith, but you can’t reduce his characters quickly and easily to simple stand ins for angels or saints. 

Gandalf is like St. Michael, but also like St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, a holy pope, St. Patrick, an Old Testament prophet or patriarch, St. Athanasius, and many more.

The Force
So it is with George Lucas’ Star Wars. So it is with the Skywalker family, and with all those who use the power that, in their universe, is called the Force. Angels, after all, can be called skywalkers, and there are few characters in fiction more like a fallen angel than Darth Vader. Yet Vader was redeemed in the end by the love of his son, and his son’s mercy. 

What better description of that moment of conversion, of choice, of repentance, than St. Faustina’s?

It is no longer in my power,
To change, correct or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.
O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of Your omnipotence (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 2).

That is the path of a human being, alive and still in the field of battle for our soul. The angels had their time of choosing at the beginning of things. The demons have made their choice, and so far as we know, that choice can’t be changed or undone.

Which to choose?
But for all of us human beings walking the earth, each moment is part of the battle. Each moment is a time of choosing. Will we walk with God, or walk with the world, the flesh, and the devil? Do we choose Light Side or Dark Side, good or evil, life or death, generosity or selfishness (see Dt 30:19)?

So Star Wars is also a very human series (for all its many aliens), one where character matters, where good characters can make bad decisions and bad characters can repent. A mighty, heroic, and good Jedi Knight (thought not a master) can fall, and become the scourge of the galaxy. A space pirate can become a hero, a savior of worlds, as when Han Solo helped blow up the Death Star. 

The wise and ancient Yoda, with all his power and deep knowledge of the Force, could also be blind to the darkness of the Chancellor so near to him; could be silent in the face of the crime lords of Tatooine, and the slavery practiced by the Hutts. How similar to too many leaders today, even Catholic leaders, who turn their eyes away from the reality of unborn human life, who abide or promote the pro-abortion side of things.

Indeed, again and again throughout Star Wars, hope comes when broken, wounded people encounter humanity, humane love and care for one’s neighbor, whether that neighbor has two eyes or ten, is made of metal or of flesh, or even is on the same side. We see stormtroopers become rebels, and soldiers of the Republic become stormtroopers. We see people choosing between radical selfishness and radical selflessness, and learning that avoiding attachment is good if it opens you wide to more radical love, but bad if it prevents you from seeing and sharing in the sufferings of your neighbors.

Love and mercy
We see that no effort for the good is pointless or too small, and that even the mightiest, greatest of evils can be brought crashing down by love, by mercy, by generosity, by self-sacrifice.

We see that the fallen world and the status quo are wrong, and we are taught again the lessons of the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Mt 5:3-11).

Spiritual warfare
So let Star Wars remind you once again to hope, to do something, anything, no matter how small in the cause of the good, the right, the just, and the merciful. Let this fairy tale set in space serve for you as a goad to live your Catholic faith all the more fervently, for the spiritual warfare with which we and all generations have lived is no fairy tale. 

We need to be as brave and self-sacrificing as Jedi knights, as detached from creatures and as attached to God as the Jedi are attached to the Force, to their order, and to their code. We need to be as merciful as Luke Skywalker, as moved by love as Anakin Skywalker, as clever as the Emperor (what better personification of the serpent, of the devil himself, could there be?), and as innocent as the Light (see Mt 10:16).

Happy May 4!

Photo by Studbee on Unsplash.
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