The WORD in other words (2023) by Fr. Simon Boiser, SVD — Germany
Photo: A Pink Sister Before the Blessed Sacrement, St Joseph’s Convent, Quezon City
In Victor Hugo’s classic novel Les Miserables, a hardened convict Jean Valjean is on the run. He finds shelter at the house of a hospitable priest. While the priest is asleep, Valjean steals his silverware. He is stopped by the police, who find the stolen goods.
When the police take him back to the priest’s house, the priest says he has given the silverware as a gift. He sends the police away and turns to Valjean, saying that he has spared him in the name of Christ. It was a life-changing experience for Valjean. For the rest of the story, Valjean dedicates himself to pursuing goodness and tries to live a just and noble life.
The conversion of Jean Valjean happens after a chance encounter with a person of goodness and mercy. This story of transformation is similar to Nathanael’s meeting with Jesus. At first, Nathaniel was surprised when he heard that the Messiah was from Nazareth. He would have missed the Messiah if he remained prejudiced without further investigation.
Often people’s stereotypes cause them to miss important life-encounters. But Nathanael was open to Philip’s invitation to “come and see” for himself. His experience with Christ transformed his attitude from cynicism to faith. Being open-minded to God’s unexpected presence can change one’s course of life for the better.
A new year has arrived. For the cynics, it will be a repetition of last year’s old, wrong, and sinful lifestyle. For the hopeful ones, it is another God-given chance of renewal and of becoming a better loving person than before. This new year is full of promise and potential. It could be a life-changing year for you, in which the Spirit of God leads you to unforeseen but meaningful paths.
Pope Francis once said, “God shows up with surprises.” This unwritten year could be a year of grace, mercy, and reconciliation to those whom you have caused suffering in the past. That could be others or yourself. May you encounter Christ and allow Him to transform your life as God envisions it to be.