For my senior year of college, my friends and I rented an apartment just across the street from campus. When my parents came to visit at the beginning of the year, my mother told me how much she liked my apartment, and she spent the evening in the kitchen making a big senior year celebratory dinner for me and my friends. When my parents came back about 10 months later for graduation, they were horrified at what had happened to my apartment. My mother wouldn’t even sit down, she was so grossed out. I couldn’t understand it, and, frankly, I was offended. I didn’t mind living there. My roommates didn’t mind living there either. And the hundreds of college kids who regularly came over to our apartment for, ahem, social gatherings, never expressed any sentiments of disgust at our living quarters. Looking back, however, I acknowledge that my friends and I were living in squalor. The problem was that we had become so used to it that we didn’t notice the mess anymore. We needed someone to point out to us what was wrong and to give us some housekeeping tips like: “you should probably take out the trash once a week and not once a month,” and, “there shouldn’t be mushrooms growing on your bathroom wall,” and, “vacuum.”
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” As we reflect on the Beatitudes, we find that all of them find their perfect fulfillment in Christ. Our Lord is poor in spirit, He mourns, He is meek. He is also the One who hungers and thirsts for righteousness. In the great story of our salvation, the Lord sees His creation fallen into disorder because of humanity’s rebellion against Him. To restore order, He reveals to the world what true righteousness looks like. He does it through the Chosen People of Israel – giving them the Law, sending them the prophets. And finally, He enters the world Himself and lives the perfect life of righteousness, which culminates in His sacrifice on the cross for the sake of restoring the broken relationship between God and humanity. He gives us the teaching authority of the Church to guide us and to form our consciences so that we don’t mistake error for truth. He gives us the sacraments, because we still struggle with the effects of Original Sin and we need the healing and strengthening power of grace that the sacraments provide us.
The great models of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are the prophets and the saints. They find themselves in the midst of the world’s disorder and help the rest of us recognize it. Prophets and saints often experience suffering because of the resistance of the world to their words and actions, but their hunger and thirst for righteousness moves them to persist in their loving fidelity to truth and goodness. Like me and my friends who couldn’t really see the disorder of our apartment because we had become used to living that way, all of us tend to be drawn into the conventional morality of our age. It took my mother’s reaction to reveal that there was something wrong, and to be honest, even though it hurt my feelings I knew deep down she was right. The Church is like our mother in the sense that she speaks the truth to us, including the hard truths, with love. And when we have ears to hear it and hearts to accept it, we discover a deep desire, a hunger and thirst, to live in the truth. We realize that the ways of the world are ultimately unsatisfying and we are willing to embrace the hunger and thirst that only will be perfectly satisfied in the eternal presence of the Source of all righteousness.