Let us look at the terms in this Beatitude. The first are “hunger and thirst” and the other is “righteousness”. How are these related and why are they important? What is this righteousness that we are to hunger and thirst after?
Hunger and thirst imply real needs. On the surface, they are desires based on the lack of either food or water. But this hunger and thirst that Jesus refers to here is for something far greater than food or water. This hunger is for something much more fulfilling, something that lasts, that fulfills all of our right desires. This hunger and thirst is for nothing less than righteousness.
What is this righteousness that Jesus is challenging us with here? The dictionary definition says that righteousness is characterized by “uprightness or morality, virtuousness; someone who is genuinely good.” While this definition is good, is it enough to understand Jesus’ meaning and purpose here?
To get at the deeper meaning, we need to refer back to Matthew 3:14-15. This is when Jesus approaches John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan River. John is reluctant to lump Jesus in with the sinners he is baptizing, but Jesus changes his mind when he says, “Allow this now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Righteousness for Jesus seems to refer to the saving activity of God. To fulfill all righteousness is to submit to God’s plan for salvation. This is what Jesus was doing, and what he asks us to do. This “righteousness” is what we are challenged to hunger and thirst for then. We are to hunger and thirst for the will to live our calling to live in righteousness, that is, in the saving activity of God, in all that we do. We are to hunger and thirst for the grace to do this. To live in righteousness, then, is to know the saving plan of God and to desire with all of one’s being to fulfill that plan in the ways that one lives one’s own life. This is what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. If we live in accord with this desire, Jesus promises us that we will be filled.
Lord, deepen our hunger and thirst for righteousness. Help us to know your saving plan more deeply. Give us the courage to willingly live in accord with your plan so that our hearts and souls may be filled to overflowing with this holy righteousness. In your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen!
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