The truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables presents us with two very different characters, Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert. Valjean, who has spent nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, is hunted throughout the story by Javert, who is committed to following “the letter of the law.” But when Javert is captured by revolutionaries who tell Valjean to kill him, Valjean frees him instead. Javert’s world is turned upside down by the thought that a criminal like Valjean could act with such mercy. It is so upsetting to the inspector that he ends up killing himself. Clearly, Valjean experienced the greater amount of freedom, even though he lived constantly on the run.
We might think of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel as somewhat like Inspector Javert. They are focusing only on following the Law of Moses, and that narrow focus has bound them up. They are missing the Holy Spirit’s voice and presence, which are at the heart of the Law. But Jesus wants them to know the freedom that comes from following him—the freedom that comes from being in a relationship with him.
We might think that we are not like these Pharisees at all. We know and love Jesus, after all. Still, we can point to areas in our lives where we could be freer, whether it is a long-standing pattern of sin or hurtful memories that keep us bound in fear or resentment.
Let this Lent be a time of freedom! Take your sins to Confession, and ask the Lord to loosen their hold over you. Whatever may be dragging you down, know that Jesus can set you free. His mercy is ever present to you. Let him give you the peace he promises to everyone: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“Holy Spirit, give me your grace, and help me to walk in true freedom. Lord, I surrender to you.”
Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne