This past weekend I enjoyed Les Misérables, the 2012 movie fresh out on DVD. As most of you know, Victor Hugo’s story is swimming with meaningful themes. One could explore how Les Misérables focuses on the power of truth, redemptive suffering, compassion for the poor, devotion to God, forgiveness, letter of the law vs. spirit of the law, or a host of other spiritual themes.
One theme that caught my attention this weekend is this: Who do you belong to? That is to say, who are you, in your deepest, truest person? (Who am I?)
To understand what I mean, watch for how Jean Valjean struggles with these questions throughout the movie. At the beginning of the story, Jean Valjean has been in prison for 19 years, a sentence that began because of stealing a loaf of bread to feed starving family members. From the perspective of Javert, the ruthless prison overseer, Valjean is nothing but a stinking criminal, a “dangerous man,” whose only name is his prison number: 2-4-6-0-1.
And, unfortunately, the prison experience has indeed made Valjean’s heart embittered and filled with hatred. He has come to the conclusion that an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is the way to live. Upon his release, he is given identification papers which label him for life as a criminal.
Finding it impossible to find an honest living with the label “dangerous man,” Valjean likely would have remained forever in his angry 24601 identity, if not for a churchman’s simple, yet bold act of mercy. This freely given kindness pierces the bitter armor of Valjean, who comes face to face with the realization of who he has become, a man of hate and revenge.
Standing on the threshold of new possibilities, Valjean must decide if he will continue to live the life of “24601,” or become a person who values his soul, the way the kind bishop viewed him. Valjean sings “my life he claimed for God above” and “my soul belongs to God.”
Valjean vows to become a different person, and he truly does reform his life. However, that is not the end of wrestling with “who am I?” and how to live the moral, spiritual life. (Would that life were that easy!) He will have to ask these questions again and again, throughout the rest of the story.
( Taste test the movie at http://www.lesmiserablesfilm.com/ .)
This week, Holy Week 2013, is a good time for each of us to ask, “Who am I?” Do I see myself as ultimately belonging to God? If so, how does that belonging to God influence the choices I make, here and now?
Jesus stayed true to the person God intended him to be. He did a lot of good upon the earth, but in the end, the world made him pay the price for following his divine calling. We who call ourselves Christians will also, at times, find ourselves paying the price for following Jesus. It is the way of things. Jesus reminds us:
I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world! (John 16:33)
We journey this week with Jesus, to the cross, knowing that our lives will not be free from crosses. But we can trust in the promises of Christ, knowing that death does not have the final say. In Christ’s death there is also Christ’s resurrection–and the promise of new life for us as well.
Until next time, Amen!
P.S. Giveaway coming soon: Watch for upcoming giveaway of a brand new, free DVD of Les Misérables here on Spiritual Drawing Board blog or Facebook page “Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty.”