Luke Skywalker was looking for a role model. His uncle was a farmer with a limited vision, who didn’t understand why he’d want to seek his fortune among the stars. When the hologram of Princess Leia implored Obi-wan Kenobi for help, Luke turned to him and the old Jedi responded. Capt. Han Solo saw Luke as a little brother and would’ve liked it if Luke had followed his example, but we all know that’s crazy. Then there was Yoda, who fooled Luke at first and then taught him more about the ways of the Force. Both Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine tried to bring Luke to the Dark Side, but he accepted neither of those. In the end, Luke said “I am a Jedi like my father.” His model wasn’t just one living person, it was a combination of traits he saw in those he admired, and his ideal was someone he’d never met: a Jedi who went over to the Dark Side, but whose hidden goodness he could find inspiration from.
As we go through our lives, many people present themselves to us as role models. The vast majority of them aren’t worth considering, people seeking followers more than students to empower. The problem with any one particular person is their weaknesses can undercut any good example they can give us. Like Luke Skywalker, we need to find individual characteristics of people we admire to imitate without giving our unconditional approval of any living person.
There is one model who provides perfect guide: Christ. Living our lives in imitation of Christ is what we’re called to do, and sometimes we have some difficult things to cope with. Take the line about taking His yoke upon us and finding rest for our souls, because His yoke is easy and his burden is light. That’s not we associate Jesus with, the one who carries the weight of the universe on his shoulders, washes away all our sin. How can we take that on and feel our burden lighten?
Let me offer you this: Jesus was the most unselfish man in the world. He didn’t have a lot of possessions, didn’t carry a lot of money around, so He didn’t have a lot of stuff He had to take care of. There wasn’t a lot of stuff that possessed Him, as our possessions can do to us. He didn’t run a business, so He wasn’t in management, didn’t have to meet sales quotas. He wasn’t interested in social status, didn’t care who He hung out with or what people might think of who He associated with. He had none of the burdens we put on ourselves, which would make his load lesser than some we saddle ourselves with.
It’s not even easy when you say you’ve given up everything to follow Christ. I try to live simply, but even though any member of my community could drive my car, I’m not sure how charitable I’d be if one of them rode off in it, particularly if they didn’t ask.
You could even say if Jesus wouldn’t have worried about something in His time, why should we worry about it in our time?
We may not understand Him completely, and figuring out what He would do in any given situation isn’t easy. But we don’t have to qualify ourselves for His guidance or grace, we don’t need to become worthy or improve ourselves just to get His attention. The apostle Paul reminds us that the Spirit of Christ will give us Life; Jesus reminds us that taking on His yoke will give us rest. It is through imitation of Christ, something many wise and spirit filled people have worked at for almost 2000 years, we find the best example, we become the best person we can be, we reach the greatest happiness possible.
Jesus hides nothing from us, He gives himself to us completely in the Eucharist. The biggest challenge we face is opening ourselves to Christ, trying to follow His example, taking on His yoke.