Monday, January 20, 2014

Mercy Triumphs

How quickly the weekends come and go. Our blogathon prompt for today is to review a book or movie you have read/watched recently. 

I am not a huge movie watcher, therefore I decided a book was more up my alley. My reading of late has been rather somber, as I am tackling the heart wrenching Les Miserables

I have been thrust onto the emotional roller coaster which comes with reading Hugo’s work. Because this is such a vast book, it is separated into smaller volumes, and then within those, shorter books. He did a fine thing to break up his work in such a way, because each segment could be studied and learned from on its own, separate from the tragedy of the whole story. 

The wonderful deeds of the bishop, though so important, I fear will be but a brief ray of light as the book moves forward in all of its heartbreak. Therefore, I think I am going to review the virtues found in the first two books of volume one. The life of the Bishop and the first meeting of Jean Valjean. 

It was during the perusal of these sections that I felt I was on an emotional and spiritual journey. Oh, the Bishop. Every good deed that I have ever done becomes nothing, every Christian act or thought pales in light of the goodness of the Bishop. The self sacrifice, the love of mankind, the sincerity of heart…. he is truly an amazing character. 

It is such a simple concept that he has mastered. That which we are all supposed to strive to do. Love one another. The bishop ached for and loved people. He gave until it hurt… and then he gave some more. From the smallest to the greatest. No one was below him.

This is the man that we know when Jean Valjean, the sad victim of a crooked and judgmental society, is introduced. 

This Bishop’s character can be better understood through the words of his sister. He was not religious. He was not to be the judge of anyone. He was to love everyone. That is all. She states, “Is this not, indeed, to understand charity well? Is there not something truly evangelical in this delicacy which abstains from sermon, from moralizing, from allusions? And is it not the truest pity, when a man has a sore point, not to touch on it at all?”

How often have we beaten the proverbial Bible over someone’s head? The Bishop, knowing well the past of Jean Valjean, made a careful effort to avoid all subjects that would touch on his past. There is an example for us to follow of a good Christian man. 

It is a wonderful thing to see how one individual’s life changes another, and then how that man’s life goes and impacts hundreds, or thousands. Everything we do makes a difference. Whether good or bad, every act, word, or deed will affect another life.

The Bishop’s last words to Jean Valjean were simple, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.” And that is what he did. A few poignant words spoken at the right time, but above all, action, changed the course of Jean Valjean’s life.  

As long as society treated Jean Valjean like a scoundrel and a thief, what other recourse had he then to be a scoundrel and a thief? But when the bishop treated him like a fellow citizen, called him brother, and gave him hope for a future, he rose to the occasion.

I wish I could better describe the way in which this book has been impacting me. When I go to read…. I feel as if it hurts me. If the whole story stopped at the end of book two. We would see the goodness of the bishop, and we would see the life changing moment of Jean Valjean, and we would be happy in thinking he was going to go on and do good to others. 

And so my book review for today does end on a happy note, for I am not expanding on all of the heartbreak that is to come. I merely see how a man changed another's life because he did not judge, but showed mercy.

A lesson to be learned from this book that can be transferred to this life that we lead. Love goes a long way.  There are dark characters in this book, and yet the good characters shine bright in the darkness. This world we live in is flooded by darkness. If we would stop perpetuating evil by unloving actions,by showing mercy, and demonstrating the love of Jesus, perhaps light would begin to spread from one life to another instead, just as light spread from the bishop to Jean Valjean.

Read this book. It will break your heart, but light a fire inside of you all the same.

Have you read any spectacular books lately? Seen any good movies? Link below!


  1. You certainly would deserve an A+ for your insightful book review Jonni. Your depiction of the Bishop's character and its profound effect on Jean Valjean's future is wonderful reading. It is truly a heart wrenching story. I have to read it again in English. I read it many years ago in French.

    1. You are so sweet Grandma! You know how I love to get A's :) I can't imagine reading this in French, that is amazing to me. What a wonderful writer he is. Certainly able to make the reader feel the pain and suffering of the characters.

  2. The Bishop is such a great character. I have never really thought about the fact that he never even mentions Jean Valjean's past. I mean I knew he didn't judge him, but to not even mention it. That is pretty cool. Such great advice for how to truly love unconditionally!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Charlene! There is so much to be learned from classic literature. Back when fictional reading maintained Christian principles. The bishop is an amazing example of that.


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