Friday, March 31, 2006

Obi-Wan & Lent

"Amen, amen, I say to you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit." John 12: 24

It seemed like a bad plot idea to kill off one of the central characters two-thirds through the first film and less than one-third through the entire triology. But the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi was essential to the Star Wars saga and, more specifically, to the climax of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Before dying under the light saber of Darth Vader, Obi-Wan tells the Sith Lord, "If you strike me down, I will be more powerful than you can possibly imagine." How true that would be.

Because of this, Kenobi's spirit was able to convince Luke Skywalker to use the Force instead of computer instruments to destroy the first Death Star, and then later in the original trilogy, it was Obi-Wan's ghost that guided Luke to Yoda, and then helped to train and counsel the new young Jedi. If it was not for Obi-Wan's presence in these situations, Luke may never have saved the Empire from the Dark Side.

Kenobi's words echo Jesus' words in John's Gospel in the fifth week of Lent in which he says, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit." (John 12:24)

Here Jesus, in another prediction of his passion and crucifixion, reminds the disciples that the physical presence is nothing compared to the power that lies beneath. You can kill the body but you cannot kill the spirit, because it is that which produces "much fruit."

This is also what is called "the paschal mystery," the fact that our lives are filled with crucifixion moments, but that resurrection always lies beyond the worst. Summerized briefly, the "pascal mystery" is, as Tony Campolo said, "It's Friday, but Sunday's comin'."

God created each of us with an inner power that shines brilliantly when we experience the resurrection moments; before we can achieve that, we must die to the concerns of this life and this body. Then and only then will we be more powerful than anyone can possibly imagine (just like Obi-Wan told Vader).

So no matter what struggle we experience now, there is always something greater, more powerful than we can imagine, waiting for us beyond the worst of times. As John Paul II (whose birth into eternal life we remember this weekend on the first anniversary of his death) once said, "Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people and 'Hallelujah' is our song!"

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