Leaving Bitterness Behind

 

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In the bitter cold winter, the trees seem dead and bare. While we can still find glimpses of beauty on a cold winter day, we are easily caught up in the negative aspects of winter, the cold, the limited sun light, the difficult labor of shoveling snow. When we embrace bitterness, our souls look like the trees in the middle of winter. We too can focus only on the negative and lose sight of the sun shining overhead, the snow glistening and the children playing.

The image for my book, was drawn by Paola Lecanda and depicts a woman who is walking away from the dead, barren trees. The shadow behind her shows that she is walking towards the sunlight. The symbolism of the eye in the background is her ability to self-reflect. To look deep within herself and root out the bitterness. This work of leaving bitterness behind, does not have to be done alone. Christ wants to help us if we just let him.  Our Catholic faith is so rich and the opportunities for healing through the sacraments alone are a treasure many of us take for granted. This book I have written is meant to be a tool for those prepared to do the work and enlist divine help in doing so.

Have you ever met someone who seems constantly discontent? Maybe you know someone, who is always complaining and you can’t remember the last time you saw them smile. Imagine that is the person you see in the mirror every day.

There was a time in my life, when I no longer recognized the person in the mirror. The person I did see, I no longer liked. She was flustered, angry and overwhelmed most of the time. Most days, this was hidden behind busyness of caring for family, apostolate and a semi-superficial prayer life. Unfortunately, my family was usually at the receiving end of my anger and complaints. I enjoyed my prayer time, but refused to do any deep self-reflecting. Apostolate and writing became the perfect escape.

One day while examining my conscience in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there was this one habitual sin that didn’t get much thought, I just knew I committed it and was sure to do it again. This time, a question popped into my mind, “Do you want to just keep bringing that up in confession or do you want to change it?”

I knew full well, the Holy Spirit was poking at my conscience and I knew the right answer was to want to change it. I went into the confessional that day with the conviction that I was not going to confess that one sin again.

From that point on, Christ was very generous with his grace to allow me to move into the direction of making this change. However, he was also very gentle and patient with me. Rooting out this one sin was not an easy process. This is when my trip to leave bitterness behind, began. The next few years, were not easy but it was a grace-filled time. While I was still in the healing process, the inspiration came to write down what I had learned and to share it.

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Purchase the book here “Leaving Bitterness Behind: A Catholic Approach to Healing Past Hurts”

 

 

Authentically Feminine

women

I saw a picture recently on Facebook that included this quote: “When a culture of ladies arises, a culture of gentlemen will follow.” – Jason Evert.  While I do believe there is so much truth in this comment, I can’t help but be saddened by it as well. As a mom of three boys, I can’t help but ponder how my boys will fare as men in this culture that does not encourage them to be gentlemen. Could we reverse Jason Evert’s quote? “When a culture of gentlemen arises, a culture of ladies will follow.” Or is chivalry dead because feminists killed it?

It has been disheartening, to say the least, that I have had to talk to my older boys, ages 16 and 12 years old, about a certain movie being released on February 14th. The preview for “Fifty Shades of Grey” was shown at the theatre when they went to see “The Hobbit” a few months ago. As their young minds are still being formed, and they are still coming to understand what it means to have dignity, be treated with dignity and to treat others, especially women, with dignity. The hype around this book and film, sends a message that is contrary to what I am teaching my boys, contrary to the men I hope they will one day become.

My hope then is that if they at least understand what authentic feminism is, their behavior and demeanor around women will inspire lady-like behavior from the women God places in their path. What is authentic feminism?

Pope Saint John Paul II said it best in his letter to women, Mulieris Dignitatem and the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi put it together beautifully in a song titled, “Reasons to Live.”

In order to appreciate authentic feminism we have to appreciate the author of authentic feminism. God, Our Creator, designed man and woman. He created us in his image and likeness. This fact alone, gives each human person a dignity that surpasses all other creatures He ever created. God gave man and woman rational thought and free will. He created us equal, but different. Those difference were not meant to make one superior to the other, they were meant to complement each other, to complete the other.

Being created in His image and likeness also means that we were created to love, to serve, to know Him and make Him known. While we know God as Father, through scripture, and the action of having His son born of a woman, we also know God possesses both male and female characteristics. God can create life on His own, yet when He created human beings in his image, he intentionally creates them so that one needs the other in order to procreate. Man is not complete without woman and vice versa.

Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we are left with a distorted reality. We live in a fallen world, and so human dignity, rational thought and free will have been twisted. Throughout history we see how this has affected the way human beings treated each other, and how the dignity of women was not upheld or respected.

There are some benefits to the Feminist Movement that include, the right to vote, the right to choose to work in or outside of the home, the right to equal pay for equal work, employers including family leave and flexible hours to be conducive of working mothers, the right for women to actively stand up for the oppressed or marginalized in society. Since the face of poverty and abuse victims are still predominantly women and their children, being active in defending the rights of women against physical and financial abuse is an important and necessary cause.  In this way we see that Catholic social-doctrine and the Feminist movement share many similarities.

However, authentic feminism is opposed to some of the views of secular feminism, especially when it comes to sexuality, reproductive rights and roles within family and society. Here we see how the pendulum has swung way too far in the opposite direction.

The false notion that artificial contraceptives have given women sexual liberation is one of the most mind boggling notions of the feminist belief. A woman’s body is designed to go through a natural cycle in preparation for reproduction. Instead of recognizing the beauty of this cycle and empowering women to learn about their bodies, society encourages women to suppress their God given gift to reproduce despite the fact that she will face many dangerous and unnecessary consequences. Consequences such as cancer, strokes, heart attacks, fertility issues and in some cases death. Listening to Janet Smith’s talk on “Contraception, Why Not?” I learned that the pill was originally created by a man. Why? So he could use woman as an object for pleasure without having to deal with the responsibilities of becoming a father. That doesn’t sound like it’s in line with protecting the rights of women.

If we take a closer look at abortion. Feminists use statements like, “My body, my choice.” Truly this sounds noble enough. However, abortion damages the woman’s body, along with her emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being. Abortion kills female babies in the womb and at times, kills the woman as well.  If we truly care about female rights, we would fight to end abortion in order to protect women. Former secular feminist and Director of Planned Parenthood shares her experience with this first hand. I implore you to get to know Abby Johnson.

A woman who embraces her authentic feminism embraces her role in the family and in society. Her role to bring her feminine genius to the workplace, to politics, the courtroom, and to her home.  She lives at the service of others, bringing her ingenuity, compassion and nurturing spirit to everyone she meets. She may do this on a large scale by initiating change to improve benefits for the impoverished in her community, she might work to educate those who may not otherwise receive an education. She may choose to use her feminine genius to build up her husband and educate her children at home.

Living at the service of others, does not mean she degrades her own dignity to help someone else. An authentic feminist knows her boundaries and holds true to her convictions. While she recognizes the needs of others, she would not go against her conscience or undermine herself in the name of serving others. This would be contrary to what God designed her to do. Only by treating others with dignity can we transform society, one heart at a time. A woman who embraces her authentic feminism will serve others by building up their dignity and not by engaging in behaviors that are physically damaging, illicit or immoral.

1, 2, 3….TRIUMPH!

Triumph movie

If you have watched “The Triumph” movie, and you stayed to the end then you recognize this cheer from the blooper reel. This movie has shown throughout Canada and U.S. over the last few months with great success. After viewing the movie today, I can see why.

The Triumph” is a documentary about the apparitions of Mother Mary in Medjugorje. I have never been to Medjugorje and while I was curious to watch the movie, I went today because I was invited to write a review. Having little knowledge of the apparitions in Medjugorje did not affect my ability to enjoy this film.  I will try not to spoil the movie in this review because I truly believe everyone should see this film.

Before commenting on the actual film I like to clarify that I always attempt to align my writing with the teaching of the Catholic Church. First of all, these apparitions in Medjugorje have not been approved by the Vatican. Mainly because investigations usually begin when the apparitions have stopped and in this case the claim is that the apparitions still continue to this day.  I know all things are possible with God. As indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such “revelations”.

Through this I understand that a Catholic is not obliged to believe in these apparitions, and we are to reject any private revelations that go against the teachings of Christ and His Church. I don’t see any harm in staying informed on what is happening in Medjegorje, and having spoken to a few individuals who have travelled there, I think it is fair to say that this trip has not damaged their faith. We are called to tread with discernment and caution as we contemplate the possibility of these apparitions being authentic.

This documentary provided an opportunity for me to learn more about what is going on in Medjugorje through the eyes of a 28 year old man. In the first few minutes I realized some may have felt like it was a tourism ad “Come on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.” However, that is not what struck me. For someone like me who does not have the means at this time in my life to travel to Medjugorje personally, it was like the makers of The Triumph movie brought Medjugorje to me.

In this documentary we follow a young man named Ben and his experience and trip to Medjugorje. Ben is a cradle Catholic, who fell away from his faith at some point, but still considers himself a believer. He is a Catholic with some issues, some questions and even some doubts.

“I believe in you Lord, help my unbelief.”

We can all relate to Ben who first arrives in Medjugorje as a skeptic. He makes some pointed statements that are worthy of some reflection. He expects to see a sign in order to believe there is truly something happening in Medjugorje. He recognizes this as a lack of faith. When we demand a sign, “what kind of faith is that?” He says.

The cinematography was excellent. Providing scenic views from the top of the hills, and the beautiful sunrises, I am partial to scenic views, so this kept my attention. When the pilgrims climb the mountains, the filming is done in a way to appear that we are climbing the hill with them. It was very engaging with the use of humour, adventure and even some heartfelt moments that had my eyes welling up with tears.

The allegories in the film were easy to identify. Cross Mountain is a mirror of our faith life. It is a three-hour trek, through rocky and muddy ground, that must be done on foot and many do this walk in bare feet. Ben is reluctant to make this trek. In life we desire union with God but we don’t want to climb the mountain.

Ben struggles with addiction. It is an addiction that is easily minimized or justified. He gives in to binge drinking, smoking cigarettes and marijuana. Even his issues are an allegory for sin which we all have to deal with. This film challenges us to look deep within ourselves and see what we are doing wrong. This is what Ben is challenged to do. He realizes that if we are not fighting for God, then we are not fighting.

We also hear from Mirjana who is one of the visionaries. Her humility and faithfulness shine through the camera. One of the greatest messages for me from Mirjana is the message that we cannot judge. Mother Mary asks us to live in peace. She is the Queen of Peace. Mother Mary asks us to respect the freedom of each man to believe or to sin. We cannot judge others for what they believe or for what they do. However, we are called to have a pure heart.  An impure heart cannot do good and just things. Even a believer can have impure heart.  God doesn’t allow war to happen, what God allows is for us to use our freedom. We choose war or we can choose to love.

This film can be enjoyed by all, those who share in the Catholic faith and even those who are not Catholic. Ben speaks with an Orthodox minister and Muslim Imam. In Bosnia the Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims live in peace providing an example for the world over.

There was nothing in this film that was contrary to our Catholic beliefs. In fact, the message encourages and elevates the elements of our faith, the Eucharist, the Priesthood as a bridge to Heaven, and the love of God for all of us, which can be found in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Mary does nothing more than embrace us all as her children and bring us to her heart which is infused with God’s love.

What is The Triumph? It is the conversion of hearts to live this peace, respect and love for souls. When God triumphs in the hearts of men, then He will also triumph in the world over.

Over all “The Triumph” is a message of hope and reminder to pray and cultivate a relationship with God.

In Ben’s words, “What is the point of  a life changing experience of God’s presence if we don’t take that change into our daily life?”

That’s enough reading, now check out the website and commit to watching the film if you haven’t already.

www.thetriumph.net

Vampires, Witches and Zombies: Part 2

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Scripture tells us that Christ became sin to free us from the bonds of sin and open the doors to heaven for us. Before Christ’s death and resurrection all those who died were not allowed into heaven. As we recite in the creed, “he descended into hell,” which means He went to hell out of love for those souls who earned a place in heaven but passed away before he opened the gates of heaven.

He loves us too much to leave us alone while we feed the demon and pet the serpent. However, since he is the perfect gentlemen he is not going to intervene unless we ask him to. We must be ready to stop feeding the demon.

When we watch horror movies, we make Jesus watch them too. Jesus who has a clear conscience, who knew no sin, chose to take on sin, not only sin itself but the consequence of sin. When we sin, we cause him to do the act with us. He chose this, because he loves us.

Worse still these images do not bring us closer to him. Most movies will easily show the supernatural evil but will leave out the supernatural good. The evil will be overcome by mere human effort, or by someone who has a similar power as the evil entity but use it for good. They deliberately leave out that only with God can we face and overcome evil. God doesn’t want us to choose to face the evil. Like the words of Mufasa, in the movie, “Lion King,”

“Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.”

To add insult to injury we are making Christ accompany us as we watch a story that deliberately omits him, even though he is the one true victor over evil.

When we are dealing with zombies and vampires we are watching images that mock the Eucharist. In fact it is anti-Eucharist. Christ gave up his life, and allows his body to become our supernatural food which gives us eternal life. We have him accompany us as we watch media that says, ‘give me your body as food, and I will give you a decayed, dead, demonically possessed body.’

PassionSatanWhen we watch images that are meant to be fearful and disgusting, we ignore what is happening spiritually. We allow ourselves to become desensitized to the fearful and disgusting images. We think its safe to laugh in the face of evil. Unfortunately, I think Satan is the one having a laugh at our naïvety.

We ask our Guardian Angel to stop guarding, guiding and ruling, we ask Mother Mary to look away and we mock Jesus for the time it takes to watch a horror movie and allow ourselves to be spiritually slimed. That demon we fed during the movie in now ruling our conscience. When we go out into the world, what was once black and white is now grey. We have numbed our conscience, our perception of good and evil is skewed. Accepting immorality will come easier. In this way we endanger our faith, giving way to self-sufficiency, complacency and pride.

Death is not pretty and the images of skeletons and decaying flesh should serve to remind us that our physical bodies are temporary and will decay one day. This should motivate us to nurture our faith, to actively nourish our relationship with our Guardian Angel, with Mary and especially with Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. We can’t avoid the fact that our physical body will decay, but the good news is we can choose to nurture our spirit, instead of causing its decay.

The Good News is that God’s mercy is endless. All we have to do is ask for it and he readily gives it to us. We must work on journeying towards God, and turn away from anything that hinders that journey. In the words of Matthew Kelly, “Every journey towards something, is a journey away from something.” We can’t be afraid to take the steps necessary to cut off our attraction to images that draw us away from God. He will give us the grace we need to turn away and continue the journey to our eternal home with him.

I leave you with this quote from Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdelen, O.C.D. from Divine Intimacy, ” We want to become saints, but in the easiest way possible, without effort, without fatigue…we should like to practice virtue, but only to a certain point, only when it does not ask for great sacrifice, or go too much against the grain…Our progress in holiness depends precisely upon these acts which we hesitate to make, without them we shall lead a mediocre life, we shall always remain on the same level, if indeed we do not lose ground. Let us beg the saints whom we honor today to help us overcome our laziness, lassitude, our cowardice”

Read the first part here.

Vampires, Witches and Zombies….Oh My!

watching horror movie

This time of year it seems we can’t get enough of disgusting and fearful images. One only has to flip channels on your TV to be bombarded with images that play on our fears of the unknown supernatural realm.  However, more and more it seems that media involving the supernatural is no longer reserved for the occasional movie, now we have year round TV series as well.

Believing that we are both physical and spiritual beings, makes me wonder what happens to us physically and spiritually as we watch fearful, disgusting and horrific images.

I believe that our initial instinct to find certain images ‘scary’ or ‘gross’ is a warning sign for us to avoid these images. Many of us ignore that warning. What happens then?  The rush caused by the chemical release in our brain becomes the reason we stay and laugh at the images or at our startled reaction. Psychologists say there is a release of adrenaline when we watch fearful images. This adrenaline is to give us the energy to fight or flight. Instead we sit and continue watching.

When we are done with that movie or show we want to watch another because we want that rush again and again. We will want to re-visit the scene that elicited the ‘rush’. We will recall the scene in our minds or talk about it to others. When we think about it or talk about the scene we feel the same chemical release. We enjoy the rush again.

I am more concerned with what happens to us spiritually when we watch horror movies. In this two-part post I will share with you four things I propose happens spiritually.

Angel and demon on shoulderMost of us can remember the cartoon image of a person who has an angel on one shoulder and demon on the other. The demon is trying to tempt the person to make an immoral choice. The angel reminds us of the consequences and persuades us to choose the good. This image is closer to reality than we may realize. Our Guardian Angel has been given to us by God, to help us battle evil and protect us from harm. When we make the free will choice to watch horror movies, in a sense, we tie our Guardian Angels hands. We force our Guardian Angel to step back while we feed the demon. When we pray to our Guardian Angel we ask him to ‘rule and guard, light and guide.”  In that moment that we choose to feed the demon we are welcoming darkness, stopping our Guardian Angel from ruling and guarding and allowing the demon to be our guide instead.

Secondly, I propose we are ruining our relationship with our Blessed Mother. Jesus gave us his mother as a gift. She helps us come to know her son, and she wants to be close to us. Through her purity, beauty and love she has the power to “crush the head of the serpent.” Yet, when we choose to watch horrific images we are saying, “Mother Mary, don’t crush the serpent’s head just yet, I want to feed him for a bit, let him be my pet.”head of serpent

What is the danger in that? We all know the longer we own a pet the more affection we have for the animal. The more difficult it is for us to detach from it.  In this case, the serpent becomes stronger and hungrier. Soon it becomes the master and we it’s slave. We naïvely think we will be strong enough to put it down before that time comes. The serpent is cunning. He knows we need Mother Mary, our Guardian Angel and especially Christ to put him down for us.

Tomorrow I will share how we damage our relationship with Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Have a safe and happy “All Hallows Eve” and remember to pray to your Guardian Angel today.

 

Read Part 2 here.

Supernatural Food: The Seed of Immortality

Our Lord in the Eucharist

In a world that is immersed with stories of supernatural beings, reverence for the supernatural food offered during a Catholic Mass is lost. Why is this so? I don’t have one concrete answer to this question. I believe the fascination with zombies and vampires has a lot to do with it.

In the Bible, John 6:52-59 Jesus says, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life within you.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, … My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him … so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.”

Jesus offers us his own body and blood as food. He gives up his own physical body, to give eternal life to our souls. This eternal life includes remaining in his presence where we will be filled with joy, peace and love.  Through his sacrifice he gives dignity to all life. He exemplifies the ultimate true friend by laying down his life for us.  The Eucharist is a pledge of eternal life not just for our soul, but also for our body. Christ’s immortal body plants a seed within us, the seed of immortality. The Eucharist is a gift that we choose to receive and it is the sacrament of hope.

The zombie and the vampire take the bodies of their victims as food, against their free will. These creatures lack self-control, and are seeking to fulfil a carnal desire. They are reduced to animalistic, perverted, undignified and dirty task of feeding on human flesh and blood. Zombies and vampires are led by a spirit of lust. Their lust causes their victims physical death. Once transformed into a zombie or vampire the human soul is damned. Immortality is perverted as they are stuck in this temporal world with no hope for an eternity of peace, joy and love. Their whole existence is dependent upon instilling fear. Victims are forced to respond by flight or fight.

If the apostles had bitten into Jesus arm, when he said, “eat my flesh,” it wouldn’t have done them any good. Jesus wasn’t calling them to cannibalism. Jesus had to die and be resurrected, to institute the sacrament of the Eucharist. He remains with us in the form of bread and wine, yet through the eyes of faith we accept that the substance has changed to His body and blood. When Jesus resurrected and when the Bible references the resurrection of others, it is a complete resurrection of body and soul.

A quick ‘google search’ on the history of the zombie and the vampire reveals a link to the supernatural. Zombies are known in Haitian religion as animated corpses that are resurrected by mystical means, such as witchcraft and are controlled by the person who revived them. They are soulless and mindless creatures. Whereas, vampires were thought to be supernatural, demonic entities, born out of sorcery, demons summoned from another world. Most vampire enthusiasts will relate the story of a Romanian man, Vlad Tepes as the earliest vampire. However, he was not actually considered a demonic, blood sucking being, this was adapted in Western literature.

If we can shrug off the invisible evil, then we can just as easily shrug off the invisible good. We easily dismiss the zombie and vampire as fictional and entertaining, failing to acknowledge the danger that lies behind every zombie and vampire story.  We forget that we are not only physical beings, we are also spiritual beings. Our physical body is connected to our spirit therefore what we do with our body affects our spirit, and vice versa.    Current zombie and vampire story lines tend to remove supernatural elements. For example, they use scientific means to explain the spread of the zombification or vampirism as a virus. This doesn’t in itself remove the danger, the origin or the intent of the spirit behind the story.

If a non believer attends a Catholic Mass and doesn’t accept that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, it doesn’t change anything about the sacrament. Their lack of faith or indifference doesn’t affect the miracle that occurs on the altar at Mass. Even if the priest says the words of consecration but doubts the Real Presence, Christ will still be truly present. You can read of the numerous, scientifically documented testimonies on the Miracles of the Eucharist that prove the Real Presence of Jesus in the bread and wine we receive at Holy Mass.

The world is so much more than what we can physically perceive. Since vampirism and zombification mock the sacredness of the Eucharist, by watching or reading these stories we are in danger of becoming indifferent. Not only indifferent to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but to sin in general. We can get so caught up in the tangible physical part of our being we forget our spirit, and lose sight of the supernatural. When we don’t nurture our spirit, through prayer and the sacraments it becomes easier for us to give way to sin.  The more evil, grotesque images we allow into our subconscious the more deadened we will be to its negative effects on our spirit.

God is good. When we physically and spiritually dwell on what is good, noble, right and beautiful it is easier to draw our hearts and minds to God. Our souls will not be weighed down. Our spirits will be uplifted, joyful and hopeful. The more we see beauty, the more sensitive we will be to the ugliness of evil and sin.

St. Paul said it best in Philippians 4:8  : “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever  is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Les Miserables – A Story of Hope

Barricade of Freedom

Barricade of Freedom

Having been introduced to the world of musicals in my teens through “Les Miserables” I have a special affinity for this musical. I watched the musical about three times live on stage, and read the book by Victor Hugo. Each time there was a different part that struck a chord with me. I assume it depended on where I was in my life at the time.

The first time I saw the musical, I don’t know if I caught the story line because I was young and overwhelmed by the ‘live’ visual effects I was witnessing for the first time on stage. I recall being most captured by the music. Other times, I recall being especially taken by the love triangle.

When I read the book, I was especially touched by the kindness of the bishop and the struggle Val Jean faces while raising Cosette and fleeing from Javert.

With the exception of what I believe were unnecessary scenes, I thoroughly enjoyed this latest version of “Les Miserables” in theatres. I was only disappointed with the graphic content used in the ‘Master of the House’ scene. And while the actors did a great job portraying their characters, I seemed to have the most difficulty with Russel Crowe’s role as Javert.

This time around I was most captured by the underlying story of hope in “Les Miserables”. Based on how many characters lose their lives, and the great loss experienced at the barricade this story is seemingly a tragedy. However, it culminates in the final scene. In this scene there is a sense of hope, when the song “of angry men” becomes a song from ‘beyond the barricade’, while those who have passed away are singing from eternity. This is a call to all us who battle daily against the evils and injustice in this life. We should not be discouraged when we don’t see the fruits of our efforts. Like the characters in this story, it is not whether they succeeded that was important so much as the fact that they tried.

Surely we don’t want to be like the servant in the parable of the talents (Mathew 25:14-30) who didn’t do anything with his talents and was judged harshly for it. Moreover, if we take the attitude that there is nothing we can do to change the culture in which we live then we are not a people of hope. As people of hope we accept that there will always be work to do, but we set out to affect change regardless of success. Mother Teresa once said, “God does not call us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful.”

In the story of “Les Miserables” those who took to the barricade to fight against the corrupt government were the youth. This resounded so clear to me. As a story of hope, we would have to see the youth taking on the role to affect change. Youth generally have a rebellious nature, when that rebellious nature is rooted in just causes we see major change and brave sacrifice. As adults we place the hope of a better future in our youth. Indeed, in scripture, we find a call for the youth to not be intimidated by those who look down on them for their youth. (Timothy 4:12 ). It also reminded me of the book “Do Hard Things” which is a Christian book based on the above scripture passage. It’s a call to our youth to rebel against low expectations.

Perhaps the most tragic character in the story of “Les Miserables” is Javert. While all the characters struggle, for some all they have is hope of a better future. Whereas, Javert is a man without hope, he cannot fathom anything but the law. He reminded me of two people in scripture. The Pharisees who were so intent on the law, they forgot about cultivating and nurturing a personal relationship with God. So much so, that when God was in front of them, whether Jesus himself or his disciples they could not recognize Him. He also reminds me of Jonah, who was called to go to Nineveh and implore them to change their ways or deal with God’s wrath. Yet, when the people of Nineveh listened to him, he couldn’t fathom God’s mercy and still expected they would face punishment. Javert like these two biblical persons cannot see past the law and just punishment. This in the end is the cause of his demise. Without hope and without God’s mercy, we fail to see Christ in others. We become unable to see that Christ can penetrate even the worst of sinners. We cannot judge hearts, we can judge actions. If we look at Val Jean’s actions it is clear that he is a changed man. Javert sees the world only through the eyes of the law, while he is a God-fearing man, he fails to see a fellow Christian in Val Jean and is overcome with pride.

The creators of the musical show an interesting parallel between Val Jean and Javert when they have them sing the same song at the turning point in their lives. “Val Jean’s Soliloquy” and “Javert’s Suicide” use the same lyrics, yet for Val Jean it is a time to change his life, to live for God and make better choices, for Javert it marks a time of great despair and the end of his earthly life.

While the title seems to imply that this is a miserable story, what lies underneath the surface is truly a story of hope. The barricade symbolizes all the challenges, struggles and obstacles we face in this earthly life. We face those struggles and we fight the good fight, with hope that goes beyond this life, a supernatural hope, a hope of a better life in eternity.