From The Prayer Book Journey: Google
BY ANN RENNIE
Two films that many Australians have recently seen are about journeys; the journeys that can come to define or change a life. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins finds an unexpected inner tenacity when he leaves the dusted and doylied comfort zone of his home to embark on his adventures.
But it is Jean Valjean’s journey in Les Miserables which is the most poignant. We first see him as a man of brute strength with few redeeming qualities. His essential humanity has been debased by violence and vile incarceration over a period of nineteen years.
However, it is an act of unexpected mercy that sets him on the path to redemption; a small act that resolves him to become a good man.
Instead of incriminating him after the theft of two silver candlesticks, the bishop says to the police that they were a gift. In pardoning him, the bishop has bought his soul.
In the chapel a perplexed Valjean asks What spirit comes to move my life? He becomes a man repentant and transformed, vowing from that moment to make amends and to make something of his life.
This becomes his journey; his life becomes a work in progress, as all our lives are. Although Valjean cannot be described as an everyman, his story resonates with everyone who has to make choices as to how they will live, how they will be in the world, how they will treat others, what their life will mean.
Valjean is graced through an act of mercy whereas Inspector Javert , a righteous man, prosecutes the law mercilessly. He cannot comprehend the depths of a human heart that can respond mercifully. This is beyond the palette of his imagination. He cannot find any emotional empathy for the plight of another human being. To him Valjean is merely a number, 24601.
Throughout Les Mis Jean Valjean’s heart is enlarged by love. In the film his final words sums up the essence of what it is to live and love.
Take my love for love is everlasting
And remember the truth that once was spoken
To love another person is to see the face of God.
The film shows that change is possible; that life does give us second chances if we are prepared to make good on them, that God’s love is everywhere.
It reminds us that love brings us to our better selves and that the best of love is a gift that opens our hearts to God.
As we move towards Pentecost, perhaps we, too, need to reconsider What spirit comes to move my life?
Can we hear the soft sibilance of the Holy Spirit urging us on, hinting at a change of heart, whispering to us as we pray that a new way might be found, suggesting somehow that there are other plans afoot and much work to be done, that our lives are moving in a new direction?
I am old enough to remember the words of the hymn Breathe on me breath of God, fill me with life anew.
This is what Pentecost is; a new start with the Spirit; a birth day, as it is for the Church, where we are given the opportunity to live life anew.
Pentecost is the time when love is in the air, the wind is beneath our wings and the Spirit moves within us.
It is the answer, my friend, blowing in the wind.
(Pentecost this year is May 19.)
Ann Rennie is a Melbourne writer who also teaches senior students in a Catholic girls' school. Her book The Secret Garden of Spirituality (Reflections on Faith, Life and Education), was published in 2011 by Michelle Anderson. Flickr image from cowley_mail.
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