June 18, 2013 | 03:40 pm

God acts, we respond.

Jean Valjean goes to prison for 19 years only to be released to a world that despises him and gives not a glimmer of a second chance. This is how the well loved novel  Les Miserables begins. A bishop welcomes Jean Valjean to sleep and eat in his home, the church, only to be betrayed by Jean later that night. The former convict steals silver from the church, is caught, and brought back by police to the bishop.

What the bishop does next will surely determine the life or death of Jean.

The bishop changes the course of Jean Vajean's life by not merely forgiving and
letting him go, but by reminding this man-- hardened by  humanity's best
attempts to destroy him--of his true identity. He is not first a criminal but first a created being of God.

If you identity with the plight of Jean or dream of acting half as compassionately as the bishop, you're not alone. But what if we were not to first ask, " Who am I in this story? " but instead , " Where is God's saving action in this drama? "  If we place Christ at the center of the drama. we can see that it is Christ and not our actions that is at the base of our identity.  We do not construct our identity but are given one. Whatever our past, it is no longer we but Christ who now  lives in us. Created beings of God, children of the Most High, alive in Christ: this is our true identity.

Any action, including loving our enemies, as Jean Valjean does in following years, only to his detriment, springs forth from the action of the one who first first forgave and spoke the truth of who we truly are.  God acts and we respond.


Written by Grace Miguel Cipriano ( Seminary Intern)