Daily Word of Grace # 259 (June 9, 2021)
A couple years ago I had the privilege of visiting Paris, the City of Light, certainly one of the most beautiful cities on earth. In the 5th arrondissement is the Pantheon, where several French luminaries are entombed, including the acclaimed nineteenth century novelist Victor Hugo (1802-1885). It was overwhelming for me to stand by his tomb because he is the author of my favorite novel of all time, Les Miserables (1862), the most grace saturated novel I have ever read. Over and over again grace—unearned, unconditional, one-way love—is received and then given away. This is particularly the case with the main character, Jean Valjean, a criminal who stole from a bishop who had taken him in when he had nowhere else to go. When captured and dragged back to the bishop’s residence by gendarmes, Jean Valjean was not only completely forgiven and absolved by the bishop but also told to keep what he had stolen, and even given even more on top of that. That grace experienced by Jean Valjean set in motion the recurring theme of grace throughout the rest of the novel, as Jean Valjean in turn gave grace to others again and again. Along these lines Les Miserables includes countless observations that ring true to life, including this one: “The ultimate happiness in life is the conviction that one is loved; loved for oneself—better still, loved in spite of oneself” (2012 translation by Julie Rose, 141). That is exactly what God’s love for you is like, now and always. And the best response to God’s love is to follow the example of Jean Valjean and give it away to others…again and again.
Love and Prayers,