LESS MISERABLE

 

Many readers will be aghast to learn that for a long time I disdained musicals, and refused to go and watch them. I am unsure what it was that first put me off… perhaps the local theatre productions to which I was dragged unwillingly as a child. Maybe over-exposure to Lloyd-Webber on the radio during the 80s. Whatever the case, it is only slowly that I have mellowed towards musicals as an art form…until recently when my attitude underwent something of a revolution.

 

Appropriately enough, the cause of this was Les Miserables. I had read the book some years ago, and, after much cajoling, was persuaded last year to go and see the film of the musical. To say that I blubbed all the way through would be an exaggeration, but even for an old softy like me it was more than usual, and I presented a wretched sight to the world as I staggered home from the cinema.

 

What was it that had touched me so much? It wasn’t Hugh Jackman’s voice, that’s for sure. In part maybe it was the quality of the performances. Most of all, though, it was the message which runs like a golden thread through Victor Hugo’s book. The message of the possibility of redemption. The possibility that an act of loving goodness can transform even the most wretched and seemingly hopeless life.

 

The story of Valjean sums it up: A ragged and desperate ex-convict who arrives at the door of the bishop of Digne, and is welcomed as an honoured guest- given food and shelter. In return for this kindness, by some animal impulse Valjean makes off with the silver during the night, and is dragged back in the morning by the constables. His life hangs in the balance as he is presented to the Bishop. But then the impossible happens. ‘No,’ says the bishop, ‘officers, you have made a mistake- this silver was a gift.’ And to the silver plates he adds two candlesticks. Valjean has, without deserving it, been given a new life. He has been purchased for God.

 

If there is one reason why I would never wish to be anything other than a follower of Jesus Christ, it is the feeling of complete rightness I experience when I hear that story. And it is right because it is a reflection of the universal story we hear played out over Holy Week and Easter: How God, the source and author of all things, loved us so much, for all our faults, our selfishness and ingratitude, that he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, and was executed on a cross for our sake, and rose again to give us new life with him.

 

The breath-taking power of unearned love, of free and sacrificial self-giving, is at the heart of Easter. It lies at the heart of all Christ’s teaching, and guides and motivates everything that his Church tries to do. It is the Love that breaks our hearts and transforms our lives.

 

A blessed Eastertide to you all,

 

Fr Alec.