Les Misérables, Baptism, and Renewal

January 8, 2022

"through baptism Jesus sets in motion God's saving plan to renew all things according to the Divine Will"


In the 1862 novel “Les Miserables,” by Victor Hugo, the protagonist, Jean Valjean is released from prison after serving 19 years for theft. Valjean arrives in the town of Digne one night looking for shelter. He is repeatedly turned away when his papers reveal him to be an ex-convict.

Finally Valjean appears at the residence of Bishop Myriel. Myriel takes him in, gives him supper and a bed for the one night. During their meal, Valjean takes note of the bishop's fine silver and resolves to steal it. Rising in the middle of the night he collects the silver tableware and runs off into the dark.

But Valjean is quickly arrested. When asked about the silver he claims that the bishop gave it to him as a gift. The police take the thief and the stolen silver back to the bishop for answers.
Valjean trembles before the bishop as the police give their report. He knows that being convicted of theft again means that he will be sent to the galleys as a slave for the rest of his life. But then something miraculous happens.

The police inform the bishop that Valjean claims the silver to be a gift. There is a moment of silence and then the bishop responds “Yes, and I’m glad he’s returned, since I also gave him the silver candlesticks but he forgot to take them with him.”

The bishop then reminds Jean Valjean of the promise he made to use the silver to turn his life around and work for the good of others.

“Forget not, never forget that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man.... Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!”

Valjean's life is never the same after that. A transformation is at work in him. The Bishop believed in him and that faith set the thief on a different path, a path of renewal.

By His participation in the baptism offered by John, Jesus gives us many gifts. He gives us the sacrament by which we become adopted Children of God and accepts His mission as God's suffering servant.

But perhaps most importantly, through baptism Jesus sets in motion God's saving plan to renew all things according to the Divine Will. To “make all things new,” means to restore all things to the way God meant for them to be, including our human nature.

When we are baptized, we no longer belong to evil, but to good. God purchases our soul and brings us from the darkness into the light, because He believes in the goodness of His creation.

Pax Vobiscum
The Baptism of the Lord


"the Visitation" © Lawrence Klimecki

Read more at www.DeaconLawrence.org

© Lawrence Klimecki

Purchase fine art prints by Deacon Lawrence here.

Deacon Lawrence draws on ancient Christian tradition to create new contemporary art that seeks to connect the physical and the spiritual.. For more information on original art, prints and commissions, Please visit www.DeaconLawrence.org 

Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith


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