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.
Okay, listen. I really like the Hunger Games. I could not put the first book down this summer and so of course at the first minute of Friday the 23rd, at 12:01am, I was sitting in a theater to see the movie.
'But it's about teens killing each other!!!' This is the reaction a lot of adults have. (At least that's what my parents said.) Yes it is about killing. And it's terrible. It's horrific.
See, this movie is not supposed to be about glorifying killing. The two main characters, Katniss and Peeta, are horrified that they have to participate in the Hunger Games and fight to the death, much like Roman gladiators. Though the governing body, the 'Capitol', finds it enjoyable, the majority (except for three districts) of the population is appalled by these games year after year.
But I found some very inspiring themes in this story:
I cried when Katniss volunteered to go to the Hunger Games instead of her little sister who she loved more than anything. She loved her more than her own life. Hmm . . . what does that remind you of? 'No greater love hath a man than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend' (John 15:13). When faced with this decision, could I be as brave? Could I give up my life for my little sister? Or my brother? Or my best friend? I can only hope and pray that I could. When we see Katniss offer her own life, it's inspiring. Could you do what she did? Can you make even small sacrifices in order to show your love for your family?
Katniss and Peeta are not going to win. That's what everyone thought when they first arrived. These two were the underdogs. I often feel like they did. When I'm having a bad day, or week, or 4 months, and everything seems to be working against me and my happiness . . . what am I supposed to do? These two don't give up. They keep going, keep fighting for their lives. And in doing so they imply to us, 'You don't have to give up when you're dealt a rough blow,' 'There's more strength inside of you than you think.' We need to hear that. We need to see that played out.
Valuable, precious, treasured, unique, dignified – these are the unspoken words that define a person's life in this book and movie. The Capitol may think the lives of the kids in the Hunger Games are just about as valuable as their extravagant food – great for a bit of enjoyment, but ultimately – disposable. There's this powerful moment in the movie when Katniss mourns the death of someone else in the Hunger Games, Rue. You get this sense that everything Katniss had been holding in, all her emotions about being in the Hunger Games, the reality of people dying around her, and the fact that she had to kill someone to defend herself, it all overwhelms her. She sits sobbing uncontrollably. What if we had the same respect for life? What if the reality of the thousands of babies who die every day hit us in the same way? Katniss in this moment is not being self-centered. If only I could think about the value of the lives around me every day. I would treat others with so much more respect. I would fight harder for life. What about you?
What are we going to do about the injustices in our lives? Katniss and Peeta are heroes because they stand up for what they believe in. They say 'NO' when told to conform to the expectations of their world. What's eerie about this movie is that since it's set so close to modern-day, you can almost envision these things happening. It would never happen though if each of us stands up for what we believe in. If you and I say, 'NO' to things like bullying, abortion, people living in extravagance and not helping the poor – the world could be a different and better place sooner than we think.
Are these the reasons that so many people love this story? I believe that deep down we want to see characters who have more virtue than we do so that we can look up to them. Of course, just like us, who sin and fail, all of their actions aren't perfect.
So I'm not saying in any way that this is a perfect story. (In fact there's no such thing in today's entertainment industry.) I'm also not advocating that everyone go see it; it's pretty violent and I recommend it only for mature teens and adults.
We have to be honest though and admit that this movie was a HUGE success at the box office. I like to believe that this movie was huge because we're tired of mindless, romantic comedies. Maybe that's not true and some people went to see the film and their only thought afterwards was, 'I want to marry Peeta.'
There's a way to find good in some secular entertainment and I challenge you to search for truth in anything that you consume, whether it's books, TV, music, or movies. Don't just check out when you go to the movies. Ask questions, think about it, dig deep into the meaning, and maybe you'll realize why the Hunger Games was devoured by the world this weekend.
Maybe we're hungry for a story of sacrifice, courage, life, and justice. I can hope so.