Some Lessons in the Spirit
Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Luke Skywalker, the “last Jedi,” refuses to train the young Rey who comes to him looking for guidance in the ways of the Force. He is convinced that the Jedi are, in fact, responsible for much of the suffering and woes of the galaxy because of their pride and hypocrisy; and his assessment is that the order must die. However, as Rey presses the old Jedi master to help her, he decides that he will give her three lessons in the Force, so that she will understand his point of view.
Now, this story line has been a point of contention and complaint amongst Star Wars fans since the movie came out in 2017. Why would our hero abandon something that he – and we – has struggled so hard to achieve? Why wouldn’t he want to pass that knowledge – that treasure – along, as Master Yoda had instructed him before passing away? What was Luke’s point in all of this?
Rey believes that the Force is a “power that Jedi have that lets them control people and lift things.” She is convinced that one must be specially chosen or disposed to have that gift and become an agent of the Light Side. Luke’s first lesson to her is that the Force is not the sole possession of some small group of “special” people. Rather, the Force is all around us; it permeates everything and binds us together. To believe that it is only for the limited, special Jedi, Luke tells her, is hubris – hypocritical pride. Later, it becomes clear that young Rey has all she needs to embrace her destiny, should she choose wisely.
Today, we celebrate Pentecost – the commemoration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church. This Holy Spirit is our “Force.” The Holy Spirit is God, and has been given to each one of us in our Baptism and strengthened in our Confirmation. While the Spirit is at work in those who have been consecrated as priests to celebrate the Sacraments and guide the Church, this same Spirit is present and at work in a married couple striving to remain faithful, in a mother struggling to raise children on her own, and in a grandfather, home alone praying his daily Rosary.
The Holy Spirit, this Gift of God, who is God Himself, belongs to all of us – not just as a special possession of a chosen few. All of us have had the Spirit poured into us, and this places a responsibility on us. This is our Treasure.
Today it may seem to people inside and outside of the Church that we have lost our way – like Luke’s opinion of the Jedi. However, regardless of the failures and sins of those who lead us, we continue to possess the same Treasure that Jesus sent into His Church – the same Holy Spirit that fills you and me right now. Do you want to feel that Holy Spirit breathing through our Church? You can.
First, we must spend time embracing that Spirit – or better, have that Spirit embrace us – in focused prayer. This is more than simply throwing a “God help me” up every once in a while. Our world is too messy for that; our Church is too messy for that! It means deliberately placing yourself in God’s presence and allowing that Spirit to rush over you. Close your eyes right now. Feel that Spirit breathing in you. It is there; He is there. And you are just as much a vessel of that Spirit as I am - as the Archbishop – as the Pope. No one has a monopoly on that power. God gives it to you.
Second, we must put that Spirit to work in our lives. We must use the Force that Jesus gives us. This is “not … a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but … a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” With the eyes of the Spirit, look around you. Speak a word of encouragement to an elderly neighbor or family member, to a young person lost in a confusing world, to a young man who you think would make a good priest, to someone who is stuck in sin and needs to hear the truth. This is embracing the Spirit and activating the Force of Christ.
Finally, remember that this Gift is a treasure. Our faith is a treasure. The strength and hope that Jesus has given us all these years, the power and nourishment of the Eucharist, the sustenance of the Sacraments, the promise of Eternal life – all these are Gifts made possible only because we all possess this Spirit that God has given to us. We don’t throw away the treasure because the box is old or broken. May the Holy Spirit of God – “of comforters the best” – always be rooted in our hearts, and may we always be aware that we possess this treasure for the good of the world.
And the Force will be with us - always.