Justice and Mercy: A Reflection on Les Miserables

If you've recently seen Les Miserables, you're probably still unpacking the impact this movie has made on you. If you haven't seen it, or aren't familiar with the story, it's focuses on one man's conversion and how an experience of God's mercy can change a person's life. It's a pretty epic story … I highly recommend it.

I knew going into the movie theater that I would be entertained by the movie, but what I didn't know was that it would affect my prayer life too.

When I went to Mass the day after seeing the movie, I was doing what all good Catholics do after receiving the Eucharist – kneeling down with my eyes closed in prayer. However, I couldn't help but think of numerous scenes from the movie, especially what motivated two of the characters.

There are two characters specifically that came to mind. Their names are Jean Valjean and Javert. Valjean is a convict who has a conversion because of a Catholic bishop showing him mercy. He seeks to change his life around and he then lives a life of both justice and mercy. The movie revolves around him realizing that, 'to love another person is to see the face of God.'

Javert, on the other hand, is a prison guard. He believes he is serving God by doing what is 'right' and seeking justice and justice alone. He even sings, 'I am the law and the law is not mocked.'

All of Valjean's actions are motivated out of love and Javert's are motivated out of justice and obligation.

All of this came to mind in Mass, so I kept trying to move my attention back to God. But I think God wanted me to reflect on the two men because it made me ask myself 'Why did I come to Mass today? Was it out of obligation or out of love for God?'

The question startled me. Do I do good things, avoid sin, and practice virtue because that's just what devout Catholics do? Or am I doing these things out of love of God? I didn't like my answer that day so I prayed for an increase in love for God.

And God's always going to answer that prayer. Immediately, I was overwhelmed with a sense of how much God loved me. His love for me has never changed, and will never change. I couldn't help but feel gratitude and love for Him who gave up everything just for me. That was enough to remind me of what should be my motivation: love for God.

What’s your motivation? Ask yourself that question every day.

If you don't like the answer, pray for a different one.

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There are two things I love: corny jokes and salsa dancing. I also like to think I'm good at chess, but my rate of losses might prove otherwise. I enjoy awkward situations and if you were to ask me my favorite color, I'd say pink panther.