My favorite movie is Les Miserables. Or maybe I should say story since the movie was merely adapted into the screen from the original book written by Victor Hugo. And while it’s a work of fiction, I truly believe that it accurately portrays a life of someone – in this case, Jean Valjean – on a path to sainthood: possess a past he is not proud or fond of, but is transformed; is imperfect but surrenders to God his weaknesses; makes an effort to employ kindness, compassion and generosity in all aspects of his life; dedicates his life to serving others; chooses the right path, not the easy one. Sure, it’s easy to say that this is just a romanticized story about one’s tribulations – or a la the title, misery – but I believe it is the story of every person who strives to go above the transient things of this earth and fights for what’s right and just, for love, especially those who are already saints – most recently, St. Theresa of Calcutta – who did all of this and more. That’s why when I feel that I need to revive my heart, I watch this movie and it immediately reminds me what my purpose is on earth (since I’m a visual person after all), and that is to glorify God and make him better known through the gifts he’s given me. It reminds me not to get complacent. Like Jean Valjean, I want to leave this earth knowing that I’ve done all that I can, that instead of having collected glamorous moments, that I will have spent my life adhering to and executing my duties that, at first, may seem like I was sacrificing fun; but that’s just it – I know my true happiness will derive from following Christ, a reward only felt after all the discipline and self-sacrifice. It’s kinda like saving money to buy that one, great, rewarding vacation…in the moment, I’d prefer to buy nice things and eat out, but once I’m on that exotic island relaxing and eating fancy food, all that sacrifice for a long time of not buying that new phone or shoes or bag – they were all worth it. It’s kinda like that. I will admit, I am in that boat right now…I’m not necessarily “happy” in an earthly sense at the moment but I’m aware that this is also the opportunity to discipline my virtues and execute my duties. A la Jean Valjean. After all, I truly believe this life isn’t about us anyway. Of course we have to take care of ourselves and make sure that we are physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy (which is so hard to balance sometimes, I know), but ultimately, if we are to follow Christ, we have to lead a life of service…and I don’t mean just giving to the poor when it’s convenient, but incorporating it in all aspects of our lives: how can I be a better child or parent or spouse or friend? How can I use my talents and gifts to help others? There’s so many ways. And I think this is why I love the story of Les Mis so much: because it beautifully illustrates the sacrifice of one who serves without question or quibbles – through which heals and manifests Christlike love. Jean Valjean loves through action because love after all is not just a four-letter word or feeling, it is an act. And part of that act is sacrifice; that’s why Jesus is the symbol of true love: because of his ultimate sacrifice.
Paris, France 2015