Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied— (Matthew 5:6).
Jesus— Beatitudes decisively hit their mark like a well-thrown
dart. In Luke—s version of these words, the focus is on raw
physical hunger: —Blessed are you who are now hungry, for
you will be satisfied— (6:21). Matthew—s formulation does
not soften the blunt force of Jesus— words but rather extends
their meaning in a profound way. Jesus— blessing now reaches
all those who long for God—s —righteousness,— whether they
are physically hungry themselves or heart-stricken on behalf
of those who are.
A key word here is —righteousness,— derived from the Greek
term dikaiosune, which can be translated as —righteousness—
or —justice.— In modern English these terms can have a variety
of connotations. To be —righteous,— for example, can even
have a negative connotation, referring to those who are too
sure of their virtue and not hesitant to let others know about
it. —Justice— can be thought of in legal terms, as when we
say someone is —brought to justice—that is, punished
for evil deeds.
But the biblical term —justice— or —righteousness— has a
very different connotation. God is the best exemplar of what
biblical justice means because God is trustworthy and faithful.
God does what is right in all cases. Therefore, the biblical
peoples would pray that God would be —just— or —righteous—
towards Israel, meaning that God would be faithfully compassionate
and stand by his people. In turn, —justice— or —righteousness—
in the human realm should mirror God—s justice, being faithful
to one—s obligations and doing the right thing.
So the people that Jesus blesses in this Beatitude are those
who hunger and thirst for God to establish true righteousness
or justice. In such a world there will be no child who goes
a day without bread and no families will spend the winter
in a tent. In a —just— or —righteous— world those of us with
resources will have a strong sense of obligation towards those
As in every one of the Beatitudes, Jesus— words echo throughout
the Gospel. The very first words Jesus speaks in Matthew—s
Gospel are a commitment to this kind of justice: —...I must
fulfill all righteousness— (3:15). And he warns his disciples
that their —righteousness— must exceed that of the scribes
and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (5:20).
Above everything else, they are to —seek first the kingdom
of God and his righteousness— (6:33). In the end, we will
be judged by God on the basis of our commitment to justice,
as Jesus— parable of the sheep and the goats makes clear:
giving food and drink to the hungry, clothing the naked, caring
for the sick, visiting the prisoners (25:31-46).
Jesus— vision of a just world expresses a fundamental longing
of the whole Bible. The searing prayer of Psalm 107 (5-9)
may have stirred in Jesus— heart as he preached this Beatitude
to his disciples:
—They were hungry and thirsty; their life was ebbing away.
In their distress they cried to the Lord, who rescued them
in their peril...Let them thank the Lord for such kindness,
such wondrous deeds for mere mortals. For he satisfied the
thirsty, filled the hungry with good things.—
Jesus was not an impractical dreamer looking in vain for
an ideal world but a tireless worker for justice. He would
give his life healing the sick, feeding the multitudes and
confronting those whose sense of justice had died within them.
Jesus believed deeply that God—s will for the human family
is a place where justice rules. —Your kingdom come— was the
heartbeat of Jesus— ministry and the voice of his great prayer.
Every great saint steeped in the teaching of Jesus and animated
by his Spirit has lived out this same vision of human life,
as we see in the example of the remarkable American champion
of justice Dorothy Day.
Those who hunger and thirst for justice —will be satisfied.—
Jesus— Beatitude does not say how and when such satisfaction
will comeonly that it surely will.— Any Christian who
struggles to be —just— and treat others in the right manner
follows in the footsteps of Jesus himself.
Have you ever been the victim of an injustice?
How did you respond?
Is there any justice issue that you find yourself
"hungering and thirsting" to set right?
to this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."
By Judith Dunlap
Children seem to develop a sense of righteousness at an
early age, but it is usually centered on themselves. As
they grow, they become concerned about fair treatment for
friends and loved ones. As they reach maturity, this concern
often extends to people they don—t know and even those who
have wronged them. Our job as parents is to make sure their
understanding of justice also expands.
It goes beyond the notion of rewarding the good and punishing
the bad. Justice means facing the consequences of our misdeeds.
It never deals in revenge or extracting disproportionate
restitution. For the Christian, however, justice goes beyond
even this basic understanding.
When Jesus spoke of justice he was talking about treating
people fairly, honoring commitments, setting things right—in
other words, —justice for all.— His sense of righteousness
went beyond a legalistic understanding of reward and punishment.
It involved healing relationships, relieving suffering,
making sure everyone was fed. It is this broader understanding
of justice that we are asked to mirror in our own lives
and help our children hunger and thirst for in theirs.
We can help youngsters appreciate basic justice by rewarding
and disciplining them fairly, but we must also foster a
broader understanding and a more active approach. Listen
intently as they talk about their own experiences of injustice
and those of their friends, pray about the situation and
work out possible solutions. Later, call attention to injustices
in the larger community and follow the same steps. Coming
to appreciate —justice for all— is a gradual process that
begins at home and leads to every corner of the world.
By Frank Frost
Viewers of A Beautiful Mind leave the theater with
many possibilities for discussion. From one perspective,
this is a story of a man—s courageous and determined struggle
against his mental illness. From another, it is a story
about the healing power of love.
Based on the life of Princeton mathematician John Forbes
Nash, Jr., A Beautiful Mind tells the story of a
mathematical genius totally lacking in social skills, who
achieves early success but later must retrieve his life
from total collapse. He goes on to win the Nobel Prize—which
turns out to be a relatively minor achievement compared
to what he accomplishes in his personal life.
Without the knowledge that John Forbes Nash, Jr., actually
exists, the audience would doubtless find this story too
outrageous to believe. Some critics fault the film for not
being totally faithful to the details of the real Nash—s
life, but director Ron Howard uses his creative license
to tell a story carefully focused on human dignity.
Howard takes us inside the skin of this mathematical genius-misfit
and schizophrenic, masterfully portrayed by Russell Crowe,
to experience his hopes, compulsions, delusions, social
ridicule and courage.
We first begin to sense Nash—s psychiatric problem when
he journeys to the Pentagon to help solve a cryptogram.
As he stands in the situation room with numbers illuminated
on the walls, the camera literally makes his head swim,
moving swiftly 360 degrees around him and making the walls
vibrate. But not until much later do we understand the depth
and seriousness of his problem.
For a long time, the audience sees the world through Nash—s
eyes, believing what he believes as his world grows darker
and darker, increasingly paranoid. We don—t know—anymore
than Nash does—what is real or whom to trust. We don—t know
if his government spy handler is genuine, or whether the
psychiatrist sent to treat him is actually a Communist spy.
But Howard also shows us Nash through the eyes of the woman
who loves him. Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) sees past his
eccentricities, loving him for what he is. Nash—s touching
pursuit of certainty in love before he proposes marriage
finally yields to the mystery of the heart.
When Nash stops taking his medicine and relapses into his
delusional world, Alicia discovers that he has become potentially
dangerous. But she risks her own safety to help him fight
his disease without committing him irreversibly to the hospital.
When things are at their worst she pleads with him, —I have
to believe that extraordinary things are possible.—
In the end, Nash—s success depends on his own efforts and
those of others. Alicia sticks with him; a Princeton professor
welcomes him back to the academic community; and Nash himself
takes control by barring his delusions from his life, poignantly
saying goodbye to them.
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
Philip Neri (1515-1595)
All saints are memorable for one reason or another, perhaps
for such qualities as holiness, spiritual insights, preaching
skills, commitment to service, the foundation of a religious
congregation. Add joyfulness, humor and a winning personality
and you have Philip Neri.
Born in Florence in 1515, Philip moved to Rome at an early
age. He left behind a chance to become a businessman in
favor of devoting himself to God and service to God—s people.
His appealing personality won him friends from all levels
of society. He soon gathered around himself a group of laypersons,
which met informally for prayer and discussion. They also
served the needy of Rome. Philip often led the group on
excursions to various churches in Rome, often with music
and a picnic on the way.
Popes were not always comfortable with his unorthodox style,
but Philip had influential friends who assured the Vatican
of his loyalty and devotion.
Though he had intended to remain a layperson, Philip was
ordained a priest. He became an outstanding confessor. He
was gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and
illusions of others—always in a charitable manner and often
with a joke. He converted many people to personal holiness,
including influential churchmen of the day.
Some of Philip—s followers also became priests and lived
in community. This was the beginning of the Congregation
of the Oratory, which he founded.
Philip died in 1595. Though he was not canonized until
1622, he was regarded as a saint in his lifetime. He is
known as the —apostle of Rome— for reviving Christian life
in the city following the Renaissance. His feast day is
Stan Fortuna, C.F.R.
A conversion experience turned Stan Fortuna—s world inside
out and upside down before he landed on his feet.
By the time he reached his early 20s the native of Yonkers,
N.Y., was a lukewarm Catholic, dutifully attending Church
on Sundays but not really letting his faith seep into his
Now a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Father
Stan uses his gifts to preach the gospel message, often
to groups of youth, in a straightforward, no-nonsense style.
He has a pipeline to young people, whose topsy-turvy worlds
aren—t so different from the world he once inherited.
His tools are his guitar and a passion for singing, including
jazz, rap and hip-hop. His colorful, lively Web site (http://www.francescoproductions.com)
speaks in a language that young people understand.
—My basic message to teens is don—t sell your dreams cheaply,—
Father Stan, 44, recently explained to Every Day Catholic.
Young people are exposed to so much —from the dark side
of the culture. So often they have no vision, no hope for
the future. I challenge them to have a serious life project
they are committed to: their studies, a career, a spouse,—
he said in his rapid-fire, New York-native fashion.
Father Stan pulls no punches when it comes to preaching
about pre-marital sex, pornography, abortion, drugs, suicide.
His youthful audiences are always receptive. —Teens want
to be told the truth.—
One of his strongest influences is Pope John Paul II. Father
Stan likes to recall that the Holy Father has urged —boldness
of thought— in bringing the gospel to the heart of the contemporary
culture. That—s where Father Stan Fortuna comes in.
The following material
is available at www.AmericanCatholic.org:
of the Beatitudes," St. Anthony Messenger, March 2002
Forgotten Art of Blessing," St. Anthony Messenger, October
products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan
from the School of Suffering: A Young Priest With Cancer
Teaches Us How to Live" (book)
Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount" (book) "Breaking
Open the Gospel of Matthew: The Sermon on the Mount" (book)
on the Mount" (audiocassette)
Beatitudes: Finding Where Your Treasure Is" (Catholic Update)