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November 2006

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail..." (Matt 5:6).

In everyday language ‘justice’ means respect for human rights, equality, a fair distribution of resources, the institutions that exist to uphold the law.

Is this ‘justice’ the righteousness Jesus is speaking about in the Sermon on the Mount, which this beatitude comes from? Partly, but it comes as a consequence of a more comprehensive justice that includes harmonious relationships, agreement with others, peace.

Hunger and thirst remind us of the basic needs of each individual, symbolising the deep yearning of the human heart that is never fully satisfied. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus simply says: ‘Blessed are you who are hungry’. (Luke 6: 21) Matthew explains that the hunger of human beings is for God, the only one who can fully satisfy it. St Augustine understood this well and at the beginning of his Confessions wrote the famous words: ‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you’.

Jesus himself said: ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and … drink’. (John 7: 37-8) For his part, he was nourished by the will of God. (see John 4: 34)

Righteousness in the Bible, therefore, means to live according to God’s plan for the human race: he made it to be and wants to be like a family united in love.

Blessed are they who hunger...

From the very beginning, the desire and quest for justice have been rooted in the consciences of human beings, written in their hearts by God himself. But despite the achievements and progress made in the course of history, we are still so far from seeing the full realisation of God’s plans. The wars fought even in our day, as well as terrorism and ethnic conflicts, are a sign of social and economic inequality, of injustice, of hatred.

The things that prevent harmony between people are not only legal problems, or the absence of laws governing our life together. They come from far deeper moral and spiritual attitudes about the value of the human person, how we see others.

The same holds true in the economic field: the worsening under-development and the increasing gap between rich and poor, together with the unequal distribution of goods, are not only the result of particular economic systems, but also and chiefly the product of cultural and political choices. They are made by human beings.

When Jesus invites us to give also a cloak to whoever asks for a coat, or to go an extra mile with whoever asks us to go just one (see Matt. 5: 40-41), he points to a ‘something more’, a ‘greater justice’, that goes beyond purely legal practice, a justice that is an expression of love.

Without love, our respect for each person, our attention to their needs, our personal relationships may be correct, but they can also become merely businesslike, incapable of really satisfying human needs. Without love, there will never be true justice, a sharing of goods between rich and poor, respect for the uniqueness of each man and woman and the concrete situations they find themselves in. Goods are not shifted on their own: it is hearts that must move and make the goods move.

Blessed are they who hunger...

How should we live this Word of Life?

By appreciating our neighbours for what they are: not only human beings with their rights and fundamental equality with everyone, but as living images of Jesus.

By loving them, even if they are our enemies, with the same love as the Father has for them. We need to be ready even for the ultimate sacrifice: ‘To give one’s life for one’s friends’. (John 15: 13)

By living with them in mutual self giving, in sharing our spiritual and material goods, so as to become all one family.

Then our longing for a united and just world, as God sees it, will become a reality. He himself will come to live among us and will fill us with his presence.

Blessed are they who hunger...

Here is the story of an employee who offered his resignation:

The firm that I work for recently merged with another company in the same sector. After the merger, they asked me to review the list of employees because the restructuring meant that three of them would have to be made redundant.

Such an arrangement did not seem right to me. It seemed a rather rushed decision, made without considering the consequences for those people and their families. What was I to do? I remembered the Word of Life. The only thing to do was what Jesus would have done: to be the first to love. So I handed in my resignation saying that I would not agree to dismissing them.

My resignation was not accepted. Instead, they asked me how I would fit the employees into the new organisation. I already had a new personnel plan drawn up, which showed an easy and useful way of transferring the employees to other departments. They accepted, and we all stayed in work.

Chiara Lubich


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