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April 24, 2021 Saturday 02:34:58 PM IST

Soul Given to God


Les Misérables(The Miserable Ones) is considered to be one of the greatest novels in world literature. Written by the French novelist and playwright Victor Hugo (1882-1885), it was first published in 1862 with 365 chapters consisting of 2783 pages. This humongous novel has been adapted into movies nine times in English alone. Translated into dozens of world languages, the novel tells the story of Jean Valjean.

Born in poverty, Valjean struggled to support his widowed sister and her seven children. When he could not bear to see the children crying due to hunger pangs, he stole a loaf of bread from a baker. He was immediately arrested and put into prison where he had to spend 19 years. When he was released on parole, he again got into trouble by stealing the silverware of Bishop Myriel who offered him hospitality.

However, when he was brought back to the bishop with the stolen silverware by the police, the bishop protected him saying it was given to him as a gift.  This act of kindness had a tremendous impact and Valjean promised to reform his life. However, he committed another theft before he began to repent and turn his life around.

With the money he received from the sale of the silverware, he started a factory to give employment to the poor in the town of Montreuil. Soon he was elected as the mayor of the town under his assumed name Madeleine. It was during this time, his brutal prison guard Javert arrived as the police inspector of the town. Almost immediately, Javert recognized the identity of the mayor and was determined to bring Valjean back to prison on grounds that he broke his parole.

While Valjean continued to live a normal life under his new name, a man was mistakenly arrested and condemned for the crime of Valjean. Valjean saved the innocent man by revealing his identity. When he got arrested by Javert, he managed to escape and lived a hidden life in Paris taking care of Cosette, a girl whose mother had died. Javert again tracked him down during the uprising in Paris in which he also got involved because of the circumstances. While Javert was trying to infiltrate the insurgents as a spy, he was caught by them and they decided to execute him. Immediately, Valjean offered to execute Javert which the insurgents allowed.

When Valjean and Javert met face to face after a break of 20 years, Val Jean asked, “Why Javert? Why couldn’t you leave me alone? I am nothing; I’m no one.” Yes,” Javert replied, “but you’ve managed to beat me.” “I’m not trying to beat you. I want to live in peace!” Valjean said. “Then hurry up and do it!” replied Javert.

Valjean did not execute him. He let him go saying, “That way, through the gate. You’ll be safe.” However, Javert would not believe him. “You’re planning to shoot me in the back,” Javert said. Immediately Valjean replied, “I’m letting you go, Javert. You’d better hurry. My friends won’t be merciful.” “You should kill me,” Javert said. “I won’t stop. Understand? I won’t let you go. You should end this. Kill me.”  Valjean fired the gun into the sky. “You’re dead, Javert,” Valjean said and walked away.

The above conversation, taken from one of the movies, shows how transformed Valjean was as a new human being. He was conscious of his past. At the same time, he never wanted to return to that life style again even if it meant that Javed would try to arrest him and put him behind bars for life. Valjean had an opportunity to destroy his archenemy. However, he did not do it. Instead, he showed him mercy. Why?

Valjean believed that by giving the silverware back to him the bishop had bought his soul and given it to God. Hence, even when he knew that Javert would come back to destroy him, he didn’t want to save his skin. Instead, he did the right thing and tried to remain as honest and morally upright as possible. He always had the awareness that he had given his soul to God and he should never tarnish it in any way.

Our souls belong to God as we have our origin in him. He created us out of his love and he wants us to remain faithful to him by keeping our soul free of all evil and give it back to him when our time comes. If such a hardened soul like Valjean could do it, we can also do it with the grace of God. Yes, our souls belong to him. 

Jose Panthaplamthottiyil

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