Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Whitewashed Tombs

a few days ago, my wife and i went to see the movie musical version of les misérables.  as i watched, i though about two themes in the story--the redemptive act of loving-kindness and the contrast between legalism and understanding.

in lying to the gendarmes, the bishop frees valjean to begin a new life, generously adding a pair of silver candlesticks to the other silver objects that valjean stole.  this one act had a ripple effect, prompting valjean to rescue fantine, cosette, fauchelevent, champmathieu, marius, and even his nemeses, javert,  at various stages of the novel.   valjean himself is redeemed through his efforts to prove that the bishop's faith in him was justified, demonstarting that simple kindnesses may have effects never imagined.

javert, who epitomizes legalism without understanding of the underlying intention of the law, relentlessly pursues valjean, discounting all his good deeds, seeing instead valjean's criminality in stealing bread to feed his sister's starving family and his failure to abide by the letter of the law after his release from the galleys.  valjean fakes javert's execution and sets the martinet free when the opporunity to take revenge on javert presents itself.    in the end, javert's very nature compels him to commit suicide when confronted with his own realization that his entire life has been spent in pursuit of one who deserved mercy rather than condemnation.

my prayer today is that this story of the redemptive power of kindness and mercy will be the story of all our lives.  may we remember that loving-kindness ripples through creation in a stream that never ends.  shalom.

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