Can mercy defeat the dark side?
Kylo Ren is torn. “Forgive me. I feel it again – the call to the light […]. Show me again the power of the darkness, and I’ll let nothing stand in our way. Show me, grandfather, and I will finish what you started.” He has fallen to the dark side, into evil. He has done unspeakable things yet feels the “call to the light”, just as his grandfather, Darth Vader, had. I find it no coincidence that Kylo Ren [SPOILER ALERT!] tests his will to remain in the darkness by killing his father Han Solo, given that Darth Vader finally heeds the “call to the light” just as he witnesses the suffering on the face of his son Luke, being tortured to death by the Emperor. Now here’s for a reflection based on my own fan theory (which may or may not be confirmed in The Last Jedi). Although this is not immediately apparent, I maintain that the dark side has been undone in Kylo Ren.
Why would I think this to be the case? In the very act of killing Han Solo, the act meant to seal Kylo’s allegiance to the dark side, just as Kylo’s lightsaber pierces his father’s heart, Han says not a word. What he does do, however, is look Kylo in the face: suspended over the pit together with his son, Han reaches out to caress Kylo’s face in a tender act of mercy. It is not Han who is killed, but the dark side within Kylo Ren. Evil has been overcome with mercy. Han Solo, in his last (and therefore his supreme) act as a father, has planted the seeds of love in Kylo’s heart. He has opened with mercy what remains otherwise closed. Kylo may very well go on to do other terrible things (as he already has at the end of The Force Awakens), he may commit more evil but, I suspect, this evil will become less and less desirable to him. The “call of the light” will be stronger than ever in Kylo’s heart. The evil he commits will reveal itself for what it truly is as he feels ever more torn, hating the evil that he does, hating his lack of love. Kylo now finds himself, I believe, in a situation diametrically opposed to the previous one. It is the pull to the dark side that weighs on him.
Kylo Ren will find that although his actions are evil, he is not evil in and of himself, in his own being. He is, before all else, good: the scholastic philosophers held that “omne ens est bonum sibi”, every being is a good unto itself. Now what is good is an object of desire, that is, that towards which we tend, that which we want, that which we love. Kylo Ren, no matter what he does, is loved, first and foremost by his father. And, since he is a “good unto [him]self”, Kylo must love himself if he wishes to be authentic. Love speaks the truth about Kylo Ren, about who Kylo Ren is. And Kylo cannot be his authentic self as long as he does evil: he is truly himself only once his actions become consistent with whom he is. Turning away from what is good to do evil is what leaves him feeling divided in himself, inauthentic. Doing what is evil does not speak the truth about Kylo, it holds up a hideous mask and a false mirror, a lie.
Just like Kylo Ren, we are created good, desiring to do good, desiring to love. Yet because of what we do, we often feel divided in ourselves, wanting one thing and doing another. St. Paul says “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate […]. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Rm 7: 15, 19 – 20).
When we feel torn inside, torn between doing good and doing bad, we can choose to do good, to love, to be authentic to our true selves, to whom we are created to be. Since this rests on our own free choice, we are the ones responsible for what we choose. And if we make the wrong choice? If we choose what is not good, knowing that it is not good? We are not alone. We have a Father who gazes upon us with mercy, who lifts us up when we fall, who frees us when we become trapped in the cycle of hate of creation, hate of self and hate of God that is sin. We have a God who is willing to become a servant for us, become a nothing for us, up until His sacrifice upon a cross. A God who, with his sacrifice, unleashes the Force of His mercy, who awakens in us what all others may believe to be dead: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice” (Is. 42: 3). A God who calls us continuously to conversion right there in the middle of our sin, just as we are reminded by the venerable Bede and most recently Pope Francis: a God who calls us “miserando atque eligendo”, by having mercy and by choosing” (Bede, Homily 21).