Luke Skywalker had put up a good fight, but Darth Vader had gained the upper hand by cutting off Luke’s right hand. Luke crawled away off the catwalk, just out of Vader’s reach. He was trapped and defenseless. When Vader tried to convince him to switch allegiances, Luke wanted none of it. But the next thing Darth Vader said shocked Luke as much as it shocked audiences watching The Empire Strikes Back:
Vader: If you only knew the power of the dark side… Obi-Wan (Kenobi) never told you what happened to your father.
Luke: He told me enough. He told me you killed him.
Vader: No… I am your father.
This was earth-shattering news. If Vader was telling the truth, it meant that there someone with a name and a face underneath that dark mask. It also meant that he and Luke were definitively connected. Luke’s realization that it was true – that Darth Vader really was his dad – marks a pivotal moment in Luke’s story. It would bring about a radical shift in how he understood himself, his calling as a Jedi, and would ultimately guide the major choices he would make in The Return of the Jedi.
Luke’s radical shift at realizing who his father was can tell us something about the story of our own faith.
At the beginning of the book of Genesis we read that Adam and Eve originally walked and talked with God. They were intimately close to Him. After the fall, things changed and humanity experienced a God who seemed to be far away. But this experience of distance was never God’s intention for us: “God wishes to be known and to be called upon as someone real and active” (YouCat 31). God’s approaches to humanity and his gradual revealing of Himself to us in the Old Testament set the stage for the coming of Jesus. It is Jesus who bring us earth-shattering news, when He teaches us “…to regard His Father as our Father and to address Him as ‘our Father’” (YouCat 37). This means that the God, who seems at times to be far off, has a name and a face. It also means that we are definitively connected to Him (John 1:12).
Just as our parents are our source and origin, God, too, is the source and origin of all things. The world in which we live is not the product of blind chance, but was willed by the Father: “God alone, who is beyond time and space, created the world out of nothing and calls all things into being. Everything that exists depends on God and continues in being only because God wills it to be” (YouCat 44). But parenthood goes beyond just creating a child: that child needs to be cared for, nurtured, disciplined, and raised up to full adulthood. And just as any good parent is concerned with their children, our Heavenly Father continues to care for us:
“God guides everything along paths that only he knows, leading it to its perfection. At no point in time does something that he has created fall out of his hands. God influences both the great events in history and also the little events of our personal life, without reducing our freedom or making us mere marionettes in His eternal plans.” -YouCat 49
As God guides us, He never gives up on us. In spite of the many times we’ve fallen short of the love which God shows us, He continues to reach out to us. We see this time and again in the Old Testament, as God faithfully offers humanity covenants despite our inability to remain faithful to Him. When Jesus teaches the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), we get a clearer glimpse of what the Father’s love is like. Just as the father never lost hope that his son would return – and rejoiced greatly in that return – so too does God the Father love us with a limitless love. He has loved us into existence and loves us even when we’ve rejected Him. It is this love that leads to the sacrifice of Jesus:“God does not just look on as man gradually destroys himself and the world around him through the chain reaction of sin. He sends us Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer, who snatches us from the power of sin” (YouCat 70).
He is our Father, the One we can know with intimacy and tenderness. We can catch reflections of His love in the love of our parents. As we come to understand more clearly that God is in fact our Father, we, like Luke Skywalker, should experience a radical, life-altering shift in our lives – one which should guide all the choices and actions that will follow it.
“Once you have come to know God, you must put Him in first place in your life. And with that a new life begins” (YouCat 34).