The Book of Boba Fett is Disney’s latest live action Star Wars show, and one of the most common complaints about the series has to be this:
Every time Boba Fett has the chance to “take care” of one of his enemies, for some reason — he chooses not to!
That’s right — the Book of Boba Fett takes one of the galaxy’s most feared, most brutal bounty hunters, and makes him all bark and no bite!
I mean what gives!?!?! What happened to Boba Fett being awesome? Why doesn’t he go for the jugular? And what caused this sudden change of heart, anyway? I don’t have the answer to any of these questions… and sadly, neither does the Book of Boba Fett. I found it to be largely boring, as did much of the internet.
But at any rate, this sudden and surprising merciful side of the dreaded Bob Fett came to mind as I meditated on the much different, and much more amazing story we just heard from the first book of Samuel — the story where David, sort of like Boba Fett, completely shocks everyone and chooses NOT to kill King Saul, who seemingly has been delivered right into his hands.
So why didn’t David just “take care” of his sworn enemy, Saul?
Well, unlike Boba Fett the bounty hunter, who has no good excuse and no believable motivation to show any mercy — David has a VERY good reason not to take Saul’s life.
As the story goes, David and Abishai, David’s close relative and military commander, steal quietly into Saul’s camp by night, and there they find the king asleep and totally defenseless. Abishai leans over and whispers to David: “God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day. Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not need a second thrust!”
Abishai is sort of like all of us bloodthirsty Boba Fett fans. We want to see the bad guy pay! We want to see David do what everyone expects him to do — strike his enemy down once and for all!
And this would seem sort of justified, at least in a worldly sense.
After all — Saul has been trying to kill David for a while now. We hear at the beginning of our reading today that Saul had assembled 3,000 picked men of Israel to find David and then destroy him. All this, despite David’s sincere devotion and loyalty to King Saul.
Think back to the time when David was a very young man. He alone volunteered to take on the terrible giant, Goliath — when Saul and all his greatest champions were too scared to do so. Time and time again, David risked life and limb to advance Saul’s cause as King and Ruler of Israel. He defended him and stuck up for him over and over. But all the while, Saul grew more and more envious of David’s success and reputation. Saul heard the people singing David’s praises: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands!” — and unfortunately, Saul just couldn’t bring himself to celebrate with David.
So, he instead, he tried to wipe him off the map…
With all of that bad blood in mind, imagine this opportunity! — David has a chance to put a stop to the madness. There’s the king, right there in front of him, sleeping like a baby!
But David responds instead with mercy and profound wisdom: “Do not harm him, for who can lay hands on the LORD’s anointed and remain unpunished?”
This is the key. This is David’s motivation! He understands that it is simply NOT his right to take the king’s life. There’s something much bigger at work here, something sacred. The Lord anointed Saul as the legitimate ruler over Israel, and to violate that would be to violate the Lord Himself!
And that was not something David was willing to do.
So he shows mercy. He holds back. He has pity. But he also wants Saul to recognize what could have and perhaps even what should have happened! So he takes the king’s spear and water jug, and going across to a remote hilltop, cries out: “Today, though the LORD delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the LORD’s anointed!”
This sort of restraint is something supernatural. It doesn’t make sense from a worldly point of view.
But let’s take a step back and be really honest — Isn’t this what God does with us every day?
We have all sinned. We have all, at some point or another, made ourselves enemies with the Lord. And to be perfect blunt — Are we not within God’s grasp every single moment of our lives? Right now, we are totally defenseless before the Lord. Are we not much like the sleeping Saul — exposed and unaware of all that God could justifiably bring upon us?
And yet the Lord — like King David — chooses Mercy.
Our Psalm this weekend puts it best when it says: “Not according to our sins does He deal with us, nor does He requite us according to our crimes.”
Over and over, the Lord refuses to simply destroy us without giving us a chance to repent. He holds back His wrath, and says instead:
“See! My Mercy has spared your life. Will you not accept Me now? Will you not surrender and give your entire life to Me now?”
I’m very happy to report that we are not sinners in the hands of an angry God! No — We are sinners in the hands of an infinitely Merciful Father!
Look how far Jesus was willing to go to spare our lives! He died for us while we were still His sworn enemies! He loved those who hated Him even to the point of pouring out all of His Blood for them on a Cross! He freely laid down his life for atheists. For heretics. For those who work for violence, those who give scandal.
We see this over and over again in all of the lives of the saints. Today happens to be the Feast Day of Saints Jacinta and Francisco, who were two of the three shepherd children to whom Our Lady of Fatima appeared back in 1917. Why did she appear to these children? What did she ask of them? She came to ask them to pray FOR all unbelievers… FOR Russia… FOR all those who blasphemed against her Immaculate Heart. She asked them to pray FOR conversion and healing… so that the world might be spared the worst of yet another war.
With Russia threatening to invade the Ukraine any moment, it would seem Our Lady is asking us to do the same yet again.
The point is — Jesus came to save the lost. He came to rescue those who have committed the ugliest, most shameful sins — for the greedy, the lustful, the envious, the lazy, the proud — THAT’S who Jesus chooses to spare. He did not come to save righteous or perfect people, but the worst of the worst.
If Christ came only to love those who already loved Him — what credit would that have been to Him? Even sinners can do that! No… God proves His love for us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And this death is supernaturally effective. It changes the entire game.
As our Psalm puts it: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us!”
This is why Jesus implores us in the Gospel today: “Stop judging and you will not be judged! Stop condemning and you will not be condemned! Forgive, and you will be forgiven!”
Jesus isn’t telling us to accept everything under the sun, or pretend that sin is not sin, or to affirm the bad choices people are making. No — He’s telling us that by the free gift of God’s mercy, we have ALL been generously and undeservedly spared!
That is sheer insanity to the world. It’s a stumbling block. A scandal! It reminds me of that great scene from the Lord of the Rings, where Frodo Baggins wishes the horrible creature Gollum was dead: “It’s a pity Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had the chance,” he says — And Gandalf wisely replies: “Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand! Pity and mercy: not to strike without need!” Then Gandalf delivers this zinger: “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them?”
Frodo’s reaction was pretty understandable. It’s our knee-jerk reaction as well. Why waste so much energy, why risk so much for broken, twisted people? Why show so much pity, so much Divine Mercy to pitiless and merciless humanity? And yet, this is the Love that God has shown to poor sinners…
…Poor little gollums, poor little Sauls like us.
This fact of God’s mercy should wake something up in each one of us. It should shock us, and cause us to sincerely ask: “Lord — why have you bothered to spare me? Why have you been so kind to me? Why have you not chosen to bring about swift and strict justice? I’m not worthy of this mercy that You have chosen to show me!”
When we humbly turn to the Lord in this way, Jesus is sure to respond with the same challenging invitation he gave in our Gospel today:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
This is at the heart of Christianity.
Because we have been forgiven, we can now find the courage to forgive. Because we have been spared, we can now turn and spare others.
So I’ll end this homily by asking:
Who do you still need to forgive in your life?
Who has hurt you?
Who is God inviting you to spare?
Our own healing, and our own redemption hangs upon whether or not we are willing to become merciful even as our Father is merciful.