Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Good Just Lives
Our life is morally good or righteous if it is made up of acts of justice.
The first three of the Ten Commandments concern justice toward God. Justice toward God is giving Him what is due to him. Thankfully, what God demands of us is not arbitrary. That is, the demands flow from who God is and especially from who we are. For example, we owe God adoration both because he is adorable and especially because we are creatures who need to adore adorableness. If we try to follow these commands regarding God, with the assistance of grace, we will be happy or “blessed.”
The fourth through tenth Commandments of the Decalogue concern justice toward men. Justice toward our neighbors is giving them what we owe them. Again, thankfully, none of these obligations are arbitrary. They all flow from who we are and who those persons are. For example, we need truth and we are commanded to tell the truth and not lie. If we try to follow these commands regarding men, with the assistance of grace, we will be happy or “blessed.”
Is Charity Owed?
Sometimes people like to oppose justice and charity. However, charity is something we actually owe others. As St. John says, “Whoever is not just is not of God, nor is he just who does not love his brother” (1 Jn 3:10). So if I do not love my brother, I am not a just man.
But what exactly is this charity we owe others? Charity or love is willing the true good of the other. Christ revealed a limitlessness charity at the Last Supper when He promulgated His New Commandment. He said we should love one another as He has loved us, that is, without limit.
So God calls us to live good moral lives. Other people rightly expect it of us. And we also call ourselves to it by our nature and by responding to what Christ has revealed to us.
How Do We Actually Live Good Moral Lives, and Is It Possible?
We do it by consciously and freely applying to our conduct the standards of the natural and revealed moral law. Our current happiness and our eternal salvation depend on living the demands of the moral law.
On this earth it is difficulty but not impossible. Despite the wounds of original sin, we possess sanctifying grace and can receive countless actual graces. We have the Magisterium of the Church to help us form our consciences correctly. Above all, we have Jesus Christ as our model of good moral living.
The Fourth Beatitude
Christ said, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
I am blessed if I hunger and thirst for justice because this desire can make me want to be more just, want for other people to be more just, and want people to not suffer so much injustice.
But more, the beatitude means that our wish to be morally perfect, that is, just or righteous or holy, will come true. And our wish that everyone be just and enjoy justice will come to pass.
Christ Demonstrated Justice
Like the other beatitudes, the fourth Beatitude is a little portrait of Our Lord.
For example, Christ said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). When He drove the merchants out of the Temple because they were making His Father’s house into a den of thieves, His disciples remembered the prophet who said, “Zeal for thy house will consume me!” (Jn 2:14 ff; Ps 69:9). Christ’s entire work was to restore the justice which had existed between humanity and God before the fall. His last words were, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). Christ hungered and thirsted so that human beings could again be righteous.
How Should We Practice Justice?
Hunger for justice is a generous idealism which motivates our Christian life. We long to see everyone enjoy the peace, happiness, justice, and healing promised by Christ. The Lord promises that in spite of others’ hostility toward the Gospel, our zeal to bring Christ to others will be successful.
On a personal level, the Christian has a spiritual aching that will one day be satisfied by Christ Himself. What will it be like to be in a perfectly just relationship with Christ? Christ teaches that the man is just who loves his brother. Since Christ is perfect man and I am His brother, then I will know Christ’s love. And for my part, I will love him back. Thus, this beatitude is part of the theological virtue of hope, that God will keep His promises.
How Does This Apply To How We Treat Others Now?
The obvious bedrock of a hunger for justice is to be just toward others. Whatever our station in life, we have a network of obligations to others: to our parents, spouse, children, relatives, friends, teachers, bosses, fellow-workers, customers, neighbors, civic authorities, fellow citizens, etc. We need to give them what we owe them.
Thirst for righteousness may lead some to dedicate their lives to social justice. Others may be attracted to law, the criminal justice system, or the military.
But all of us want to see our friends made right with Christ. When we do apostolate, we experience a joy like Jesus spoke about when He evangelized the Samaritan woman. His apostles urged Him to eat, but Jesus said, “I have food to eat of which you do not know. … My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (Jn 4:31-34). He was really saying, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.