by Peter Law
Protecting ourselves vs. helping others
In Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, A catholic bishop in a French town takes in a stranger. The man, an ex-convict named Jean Valjean, has been denied food and shelter everywhere he’s gone. Filled with compassion, the bishop takes the man in. During the night, Valjean makes off with the bishops valuables. Shortly thereafter, he’s arrested and brought back by the police back. Asking if he’d like to press charges, the bishop says that it’s all been a misunderstanding. Incredibly, he covers for Valjean, saying that he had given him the possessions he had in fact stolen and that Valjean had actually forgotten some of it.
The bishop in the story shows compassion and hospitality, even at great personal risk. When harmed, he does not regret this compassion, but adds to it. That Valjean’s life will be radically transformed by this act of love is something the bishop can’t possibly know. He is compassionate because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what Jesus would do. (more…)