Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matthew 5.6).
Righteousness is a spiritual hunger when the soul realizes the need of it: ‘My soul has desired thee’ (Isaiah 26.11). It needs to be desired, for God does not give his gifts to those who do not seek them. Righteousness is the foundation of the throne of God; an ‘absolute’ belonging to God. We first see it in Jesus Christ, beautifully put by Laurence Houseman in his hymn for St Mark – New English Hymnal 163: ‘The Saint who first found grace to pen the life which was the life of men. Then clearly writ the Godhead shone; serene and fair to look upon.’
When we are complete in Christ, we have complete righteousness. ‘For in him dwelling all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ (Colossians 2.9). We can then say: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23.6). But how do we set about it?
Jesus gives us the answer when the Jews address him: ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus answers them: ‘I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.’ So we are instructed in two things to do: to come to Jesus and to believe in him.
To come to Jesus
Let us consider the writing of Luis de Granada (1509–1588), Spanish mystic, ‘On Consideration of Divine Perfection’:
‘May I cling to thee, as the ivy clings to the Tree. This plant clinging to the tree grows no more in itself nor throws more widely its lovely branches. In this way the soul grows in virtue and grace when it clings to you, which also brings belief in Him.
‘Thou Lord did mount the tree of the Cross to draw all things unto Thee. Thou, with so vast a love, didst unite two different halves into one person. To make Thyself one with us. Do thou unite our heart to Thyself, by so strong a bond of love, that they at last become one wilt Thee.
Very slowly do I journey, often I halt by the way. Be not weary O Lord of waiting for one who follows you, but not with equal steps. Oh, my God as my Salvation, why do I so often halt? Why do I not run with supreme swiftness to the supreme goal in whom all things are contained?
By Thee O Lord, none can be lost, save he who leaves Thee, of his own free will. He that loves your Sacred Heart has naught to fear, but will be at peace with Thee.’
(translated by E A Peers)
Righteousness can be received by faith
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, which was a witness that he was righteous for God who receives his gift (Hebrews 11.4).
By faith Noah, being warned by God of things not seen yet, moves to prepare an ark, and saves his household. Abram also was more righteous, for by faith he ventured into the unknown by the Word of God.
Righteousness can also come to some by the beauty of God’s creation; for example, William Wordsworth:
Therefore am I still a lover of the meadow and the woods and mountain and all that we
behold from this green earth.
And all the mighty world of eye and ear.
The anchor of my purest thoughts – the Nurse, the Guide, the Guardian of my heart and
soul, and all my mortal being.
Thanksgiving to God
Thanksgiving to God and the Lord Jesus Christ for bringing us back to a state of righteousness. We can now be righteous in the sight of God for Jesus Christ has brought back to us the shekinah, the invisible presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the promise of the robe of righteousness, which was lost by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they were found naked and banished for wishing to know evil as well as goodness (Genesis 3.7).
The love of earthly things will put out the desire of spiritual understanding. ‘Love not the world neither the things in it, for if a man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, and the world will pass away’ (1 John 2.15).
The sin is not in having, but in the loving.
Sister Katherine Maryel SSB, Society of the Sisters of Bethany.