If You Cannot Make the Whole World Good, Do What You Can

Epiphany 4 Thursday

Matthew 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

“Righteousness” here does not mean the Christian’s chief righteousness by which a person becomes good and pleasing before God. The eight beatitudes are nothing but a teaching concerning the fruits and the good works of the Christian before which faith must be present, as the true and main part or sum of his righteousness, without any works and merit, from which such parts must grow and follow. Therefore, understand here the outward righteousness before the world which we observe in our relationship among each other. Let this be simply and briefly the meaning of these words: A truly blessed man is the one who always keeps on striving with all his might that all things go well and everyone does what is right, and who in word and works, with advice and deeds helps to keep and promote this. Now, this too is a precious part which contains many good works, but it is also quite rare…Now, where there are people who take this on in earnest, so as to be willing to do the right thing or to be found in the right life and works, “they hunger and thirst for righteousness.” And if this took place, there would be no knavery and injustice, but nothing but righteousness and a blessed life on earth. For what is the world’s righteousness other than everybody doing in his station of life what he ought to do? This means to do what is right in that station in life: In the house, men doing what men ought to do; women what women ought to do; children and servants what they ought to do. In the country, citizens doing what citizens ought to do. All this depends on this, that those who lead and govern other people carry out their office with diligence, care, and faithfulness while the others faithfully and willingly carry out the service and obedience they owe. But Christ does not in vain posit these words here: “Hungering and thirsting for righteousness.” Thereby he wants to indicate that a great seriousness, desire, and ardor in addition to unceasing diligence is required here. Where such hunger and thirst is not, things will not turn out. Why? Because the obstacles are too great and too numerous, both from the devil, who gets in
the way as a hindrance everywhere, and the world, that is, his children, which is so evil that it cannot put up with any
good person who himself would like to do good or who would like to help others do the same. Instead, the world visits its plagues on them, so that a person may grow tired and irritated because of it. For it hurts when one sees that things take place in such a shameful manner and that doing good is repaid by ingratitude, scorn, hatred, and persecution. This is also why many people who did not want to see such unwillingness finally despaired of it and ran away from the people into the desert to become monks…But this is not what hungering and thirsting for righteousness is. For those who so want to preach or govern as to become tired and impatient and be driven into a corner will be slow in helping the people…In summary, Christ here calls for such a hunger and thirst for righteousness that never stops and never ceases; that cannot be satisfied; that neither seeks nor thinks anything but this righteousness; and that despises everything that wants to prevent him from promoting and preserving what is right. If he cannot make the whole world good, let him do what he can…You also have here a comforting, certain promise by which Christ entices his Christians: Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be satisfied…, so that they have not worked in vain. At last, a little flock will be gathered
where things will go well. And this will be revealed not only here on earth, but much more in heaven where everybody will see the fruit these people produced by their diligence and endurance, even if things here do not want to go as they would like them to go so that they must almost despair of it.

St. Louis ed., 7:373-376.

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