Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5: 6).
Let me tell you why I consider this blessing the most spiritually powerful Beatitude.
Do not read “righteousness” as the morally superior air of one beyond reproach. After all, only one character in the gospels satisfied that criterion. A rich man, who obeyed all the commandments, asked Jesus what more he needed to do to inherit eternal life. So Jesus told him he needed to sell all he had, give the money to the poor, and follow him. Then the rich man walked away dejected (Mark 10:17-22).
Righteousness is right relationship.
Hence, Jesus summed up the law as loving God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength and one’s neighbor as oneself (Mark 12:28-34). Jesus challenged the rich man to radical love for neighbor (giving all his material resources) and for God (following God’s Son).
God can deem you righteous after you rack up a record total of sins. Jesus saved the guarantee of paradise for a bandit who defended him as both hung on crosses with their lives slowly draining away (Luke 23:39-43). For in that moment, the bandit loved God and human in the one Jesus.
Yet, do not read this Beatitude as a blessing of the righteous. The bandit admitted his record of moral failure before God and others. But in the hungering and thirsting that emerged after he wore out his welcome with the world, the Son of God welcomed him.
For the person of faith, prayer and action move magnetically toward God and neighbor on the same electrical current. Love charges the positive pole and aching emptiness the negative. We pray with a feeling that we do not love God or open our hands to receive God’s love quite enough. We reach out to stranger and friend to fill that void, to find Christ in our encounter.
In her grief after the death of her life partner, Mary Oliver poses beautiful questions. In her poem, “There You Were, and It Was Like Spring,” she asks:
“Why are we made the way we are made, that to love is to want?”
Grief is the final bleeding phase of love when a once-filled place in the heart drains and the sense of lack rages like never before.
Prayer is the reorientation of the groggy, distracted child back to Mother for milk.
Kindness is the road to reunion with God in ourselves and others.
One final portrait from Jesus: The fool saves up everything needed for long-term material security and congratulates himself for finally earning his rest. No, Jesus protests (Luke 12:13-21). For your blessing comes in love that won’t stop wanting. Without it, you miss your calling and true joy.
Only through the longing of love are you sure to be filled.