Sunday, June 19, 2005

Wise Words From Master Yoda: ‘The Fear Of Loss Is A Path To The Dark Side.’

(Twelfth Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on June 19, 2005 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, RI. Read Jeremiah 20: 10-13; Romans 5: 12-15; Matthew 10: 26-33.)

Master Yoda (top) and Anakin Skywalker

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twelfth Sunday 2005]

“Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.”

So says Master Yoda to Anakin Skywalker in a powerful scene from the latest Star Wars movie, “The Revenge of the Sith.”

For those who may be unfamiliar with the story, Anakin Skywalker is a great pilot and a Jedi knight who fights the forces of evil in the universe--until he begins to have disturbing dreams about his new wife. In his recurring dream, she dies a very painful death. Anakin is convinced that this is a premonition of what might occur in the future; consequently he resolves to do everything in his power to prevent it from happening, even if it means compromising his moral principles and giving himself over to the “dark side” of the so-called “Force”.

Master Yoda tries to warn him that he’s making a big mistake. And in the course of their conversation he says the line I quoted a few moments ago: “Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.”

At this point let me say that we must always be cautious when making parallels between the Star Wars movies and our Catholic Christian faith. I’ve heard people say, for example, that “the Force” in these films is just like the Holy Spirit. Not really. The Force of the Star Wars films is an impersonal power, while the Holy Spirit is a divine personal being. And the Force has a “dark side,” whereas the Holy Spirit is the perfectly holy, perfectly loving God—the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. To even remotely associate the Holy Spirit with darkness or evil is nothing short of blasphemy.

The Force is actually akin to the “yin and yang” idea of Taoism, which says that the universe consists of 2 opposite energy forces that must be harmonized for health, happiness and peace.

That, of course, is not the Christian conception of reality—which is something we need to be clear about, since this Taoist philosophy is becoming more and more common, and some Christians are mistakenly buying into it.

All that having been said, there are some genuine insights in the Star Wars films that are quite compatible with our Catholic faith, and one of them is found in this very profound statement of Master Yoda: the fear of loss is, without question, a path to the dark side (“dark side” here understood as hell).

This, in fact, is a message that’s contained in today’s Gospel text from Matthew 10. It’s also found in other places in the Scriptures—in Hebrews 2:15, for example, where we’re told that the devil holds people in bondage to himself by “the fear of death”.

Jesus says in this Gospel (and here I quote), “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

The kind of fear that Jesus is referring to here is similar to the kind of fear that Master Yoda was talking about. Simply stated, it’s the kind that causes a person to be tempted to do evil.

And you know what? All of us are affected by this fear constantly, although we don’t always recognize it for what it is.

This type of fear, incidentally, isn’t always the fear of being physically annihilated (although it can manifest itself in that form). Most of the time it’s the fear of lesser things: the fear of not achieving something; the fear of not having something; the fear of not being “a somebody” in the eyes of the world. . . .

“I’m afraid that I won’t get into the college I like, so I consistently cheat on tests in school to get better grades.”

“I’m afraid that I won’t have enough money in 20 years when I retire, so I gamble excessively at the casino, and I steal things from work on a regular basis.”

“I’m afraid that my friends won’t accept me if I let them know that I really do believe in Jesus Christ, so I never say anything to them about my religion, and I do all the bad things that they do.”

“I’m afraid that my boyfriend will leave me, so I say yes to all his sexual advances.”

“I’m afraid that I won’t fulfill my dream of becoming a great professional athlete, so I take steroids.”

Yes, Master Yoda, you were absolutely correct: the fear of loss is most certainly a path to the dark side!

In this regard, it’s fitting that today’s second reading is from Romans 5. There, St. Paul talks about the reality of what we commonly refer to as “original sin”. He says, “Through one man (i.e., Adam) sin entered the world, and through sin, death.” Original sin, as we all know, is removed by baptism. But the inclination to sin (known as concupiscence) always remains within us—which is why we can so easily give into this ungodly kind of fear.

There is, of course, a godly type of fear, which Jesus also speaks of in this Gospel. Basically, that’s the fear of giving in to ungodly fear! After Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” he immediately adds, “rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna”; in other words, “Be afraid of the one—namely, Satan—who can fill your heart with the kind of fear that will lead you into serious sin and send you to hell.”

In effect, Jesus is telling us in this text to have faith, because faith in God’s care and love is the antidote to the ungodly fear that can lead us to sin and eternal damnation. That makes perfect sense, does it not? If I trust that God loves me just as I am, and that he will provide for my needs and always care for me—if I have that kind of faith in my heart—I won’t give in to the fear of not achieving, or the fear of not having, or the fear of not being “a somebody”.

In today’s first reading we hear the confident words of Jeremiah—a prophet whose life was constantly threatened by his enemies. Here was a man who could easily have given in to ungodly fear many times and compromised his commitment to the Lord. But over and over again he reaffirmed his faith that God would care for him and always provide for his needs—and so he remained strong. As he put it in today’s first reading, “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion.”

Jeremiah’s godly fear—which was rooted in his strong faith—overcame the ungodly fear that was tempting him to throw in the towel as a prophet and become like all the other sinners in the land of Judah.

May our faith, fortified by the Eucharist we receive at this Mass, help us to overcome those ungodly fears we face today and every day—so that we will stay off the path that leads to the dark side, and on the road that leads to God’s eternal kingdom of light.

The Prophet Jeremiah