Lent Course - Les Miserables
13th March 2018
In St Mark's Chapel

A brief overview.

Dear Friends

I have recently watched the DVD of Les Miserables, to make preparation for our forthcoming Lent Course at St Mark’s. Itis a fine film with characters, setting and a story thatraise many important questions about life.

Like the rest of us, the charactersand the society of which they are flawed:corrupt with greed, dishonesty, apathy, oppression and injustice.Many struggle in abject poverty bringing the worst of humanity but also the best. Questions about the nature of grace, mercy, repentance, forgiveness and redemption are opened for serious thought. The need fora society of justice and mercy, the rule of law, equality of opportunity, and social care for all to thrive is presented, but no definite answer offered. We are left with much to think about that will stimulate worthwhile conversation to bring a deeper faith, more whole people, a more God centred society.

The two main characters help us to grasp the importance and difficulties of finding possible answers to the issues raised.

Javert’s life’s work is to bring bad people to justice and punishment; there should be no mercy, forgiveness and new starts for anyone. Javerthas never broken the law, and sees no need for him to be forgiven. Jean once stole a loaf of bread to feed his hungry family. Javert is determined that Valjean must go back to prison for life. Jesus broke the law of his people, in order to keep a higher law, the law of love. He gave his life to bring mercy, forgiveness and a fresh starts to all who repent, whatever their sin, and however frequent it is. Many people, like Javert struggle with Jesus’ way, including Christians. It is easy for us to condemn others, and be puffed up with pride if self righteousness. We can hear these views expressed every day, read them in papers and if were are honest, find them in our own hearts in passing judgement on others. Javert is never really alive and free, imprisoned by his lack of love and self knowledge.

Valjean feels he has done wrong and can never be fully forgiven. He believes his life must be spent doing good, in response tothe kindness and mercy the Bishop gave him, but remains beset by guilt, the debt can never be repaid. He fails to see his goodness.He too is imprisoned by guilt and his inability to receive forgiveness and the fullness of love. There is something of Valjean in us all, find forgiveness hard to receive, and blind to the good in us.

Both Javert and Valjean ideas show some of distortions of Christianity, from medieval Christians who continually punished themselves for their sins as Valjean, to 21st century fundamentalists whose rigid moral teaching condemns others to eternal damnation. One final thought, does Valjean finally accept forgiveness and redemption as he dies? He is beckoned by the bishop and Fantine, to whom Valjean had been so kind, and as she died, promised to care for herdaughter.

As Lent progresses, and Holy Week draws near, I pray that in our internal and external conversations, and in all our Lenten activities, God will lead us deeper into the depths of his mercy, forgiveness and fresh starts, now and for eternity. This is a free, unearned gift he offers all, even those who have committed the most dreadful of crimes.

May God feed and grow you this Lent and fill you with Easter joy and life


See Also:
Spiritual life - Lent 2018


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