Les Miserables Makes Me Hunger for Justice in the World

Image of the character Cosette

Les Miserables Makes Me Hunger for Justice in the World


Les Miserables is playing in Toronto right now and the missus and I went to see it Friday night. This is my second time seeing the play. A few years back we saw it in New York and it converted me. I went from ambivalent-about-musicals guy to blathering, sobbing mess in about two hours flat.

What is it that is so moving about the story? Something about the honest depiction of suffering, sacrificial love, and longing for a just society where people can get by just pulls you in heart-first. 

I was deeply moved by the theme of longing for a just world, where the dignity and worth of all persons is regarded. Injustice is illustrated in the story primarily in the struggles of the main characters: Jean Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, and Eponine. A cold, rigid, unmerciful "justice" is personified in the policeman, Javert. (Ancient Rome had a saying: "Strict justice is injustice.") An organized resistance is formed by members of the educated class. They believe passionately that people deserve better, and are willing to risk their own lives in fighting "for a better tomorrow."

How noble is this aspiration? How worthy of reverence is this spirit of laying aside one's own comfort for the good of others, to lift up the oppressed?

When the human dignity of some citizens is not respected, the whole society is debased.

I found myself reflecting upon this "better tomorrow" that Marius and his comrades were fighting for and comparing it to our situation today. Are Canada's citizens protected from oppression? Again and again I felt inside myself a resounding "NO."

In Canada today we have many laws protecting individuals and many social safety nets. Of course, people still fall through the cracks, but I would say there is much more protection for most.

But then there is abortion.

Blessed Mother Teresa called abortion "the greatest destroyer of peace in the world." How can there be peace in a situation where a mother can rule "live" or "die" to the growing son or daughter in her womb? How absurd a situation where cigarette packages warn of the harm smoking causes to the unborn, but their surgical dismemberment is state-sponsored healthcare!

In previous times we were guilty of judging the guilty to harshly; now, we are willing to sentence the innocent to death. Every child whose life is taken from them in the womb must silently cry out with Eponine: "The world is full of happiness that I have never known!"

It falls to the youth today to respond to this injustice that entered our society in our parents generation. Is there valor like that of Marius in the young today, willing to peacefully but decisively stand against the "throwaway culture"? We need pro-life heroes with valor and the courageous mercy of Valjean to work to heal this deep injustice. 

For encouragement I would invite you to consider the last three paragraphs of Pope Francis' WYD Vigil reflection

Have you had an abortion, or helped someone procure one? Do not despair. Do not think yourself beyond the mercy of God, who died to take away ALL of our sins. There is support and help available. (For example, here)   


When the human dignity of some citizens is not respected, the whole society is debased. — Josh Canning

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