The Beatitudes are among the most lofty—and often perplexing—teachings given to us by Christ, and one book I’ve been reading is an excellent study from a social perspective; The Divine Pity: A Study in the Social Implications of the Beatitudes, by Rev. Gerald Vann, O.P., and I’m posting some quotes from it as well as commentary from the Douay Rheims with the Haydock Commentary, and The Navarre Bible, Matthew.
This is the fourth beatitude.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
Rev. Haydock says:
“Verse 6: Hunger and thirst; i.e. spiritually, with an earnest desire of being just and holy. But others again understand such as endure with patience the hardships of hunger and thirst. (Witham) --- Rupertus understands those to whom justice is denied, such as poor widows and orphans. Maldonatus those who from poverty really suffer hunger and thirst, because justice is not done them. (Menochius) --- They shall be filled with every kind of good in their heavenly country. I shall be filled when thy glory shall appear. (Psalm xvi.)”
The Navarre says:
“6. The notion of righteousness (or justice) in Holy Scripture is an essentially religious one. A righteous person is one who sincerely strives to do the Will of God, which is discovered in the commandments, in one’s duties of state in life and through one’s life of prayer. Thus, righteousness, in the language of the Bible, is the same as what nowadays is usually called “holiness” .
As St. Jerome comments, in the fourth Beatitude our Lord is asking us not simply to have a vague desire for righteousness: we should hunger and thirst for it, that is, we should love and strive earnestly to seek what makes a man righteous in God’s eyes. A person who genuinely wants to attain Christian holiness should love the means which the church, the universal vehicle of salvation, offers all men and teaches them to use—frequent use of the sacraments, an intimate relationship with God in prayer, a valiant effort to meet one’s social, professional and family responsibilities.”
Rev. Vann says:
“Some have held that happiness consists in selfishly following the bent of the passion for wealth or pleasure or power: they are wrong, because these instincts thus isolated and so turned to evil are on the contrary an obstacle to happiness. Others have thought that happiness consists in the “active life” as such, in doing rather than being: and again they are wrong, for activity is either a means to happiness, or else is itself beatific only as an overflow of a state of being. Happiness is not, essentially, something we have but something we are, though we become what we are by doing—and by the way we suffer when suffering is given us, which way is itself a form of doing. But the active life is a social life; and so this beatitude and the next tell us how we should act towards the rest of the family, first as far as justice is concerned, and secondly in regard to the qualities of soul that go beyond the bare demands of justice: generosity and mercy.
“Being is more important than doing.” (p. 117)