For Lent this year, we have asked eight sisters and associates to reflect on the Beatitudes and offer ways in which we may embrace these blessings in our own Lenten journeys. There will be additional reflections published for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Easter.
By Maureen McCullough, Mercy Associate
The Beatitudes are not a set of vague suggestions that Jesus offers us for consideration; they are a framework for holiness and wholeness in our lives. They are the pathway and guide given us to come closer into union with our loving God through care for all God’s children.
In reflecting on the fourth Beatitude, I am struck by its intensity and challenge to us as we live our lives today. The hunger and thirst that Jesus talks about must be considered in the times in which he spoke; many were thirsty and hungry—the hunger of one who is starving, the thirst of one who will die if not given water. This is the desire that Jesus asks of us in our hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice. Jesus didn’t say “think about justice” or “talk about justice” or “post on social media about justice.” Jesus’ words had a deep, visceral intensity. That is the intensity he asks of us today. This Lent, we are challenged to look at how we will respond. How intense is our desire, and what are we willing to do to work for justice and peace in our fractured world? What are we willing to do to work to create right relationships with those who look or think differently than we do?
As Pope Francis wrote in Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad, subtitled “on the call to holiness in today’s world”): “The Beatitudes are in no way trite or undemanding, quite the opposite. We can only practice them if the Holy Spirit fills us with his power and frees us from our weakness, our selfishness, our complacency and our pride.” Too many of us become paralyzed by the immense challenges and injustices in our world. It is too easy to say nothing will change and then do nothing to make change. I believe we are called by this Beatitude to become engaged and activated for goodness and light and justice. Each of us in our own way can contribute to building God’s kingdom.
This Lent, let us embrace the challenge of this Beatitude, commit ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit and act for justice. Let us prayerfully commit ourselves once every week of Lent to take some action for justice. That act can be writing to your Congressperson in support of the COVID-19 supplemental relief bill, writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in support of immigration reform or joining an advocacy group that lobbies on behalf of the millions of displaced people in our world. It can also be educating others about the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy or engaging in some direct service to address the monumental issues of our day. As Pope Francis has said: “True justice comes about in people’s lives when they themselves are just in their decisions, it is expressed in their pursuit of justice for the poor and the weak.” This is the justice we are called to work for every day. As sisters and associates, let us recommit ourselves to work for this justice—let us not grow weary or complacent.
As challenging as this Beatitude is, it is also comforting. The Beatitude does not say “Blessed are those who achieve righteousness, who achieve justice.” Rather, it blesses those who hunger and thirst and act for justice. So even if we falter or fail in our attempts to achieve justice, we will be blessed because we have a deep longing for justice and peace, and we strive every day to make them real in our world. We will be blessed because we see God in our sisters and brothers and seek union with our loving God in all we do.