Ravenous Beatitude

Another interesting interesting Facebook conversation:

Well, to “hunger and thirst for justice”–to be like Job, or the importunate woman, or Jacob at Mamre, bashing at all hours on doors human and divine, and wrestling with God until He does something to make it right, is a thing that Jesus tells us makes us happy. After all, which is better: to choke down wrongs, or worse to actually collaborate in them, or to bear witness boldly?

I think of last Sunday’s readings, where the Lord told Ezekiel,

But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

…the hard thing, the really *HARD* thing, is to hold this ravening after God’s “setting it right” in the place Jesus gave it among these important “Just so you know, this is what it looks like when it’s working” statements.

We discover, and do not deny, that we are incredibly broken and needy and empty; we trust God to deal with it, and live with what we’re sure He’s given, rather than what we think we might have a right to take; we love Him and other people, and even the life He’s given us, enough to grieve deeply for the suffering of this life; and in that poverty, meekness, and mourning, we become hungry and thirsty, and cry out to God (“O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and come down!”  “How long, O Lord?”).

And in our cries for justice, which are part of the happy and blessed way of Christian life, we who are poor and broken, meek and circumspect, mourning and seeking hope, starving for justice and demanding that things be set right, cannot help being driven back to our own need for mercy–our own unpayable debt needing forgiven, our own follies needing to be set right–and so we are merciful, in a pivotal teaching of Christ’s: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy” cf. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

As you say above, we invalidate the whole thing if we skip that movement. Those who are not willing to be merciful–not unjust, but making room in justice for mercy; not treating wrong as right, but forgiving what has been taken, inflicted, lost to others’ wrongs–such have not realized their poverty, decided on meekness, or mourned in love; and therefore they should wonder whether justice is what they really want. Justice–at a standard which brooks no forgiveness? a standard that would make our own unpayable debts due, to our eternal loss? May it never be!

But when we do hunger and thirst for justice and hope that it will come from God, and give mercy and hope to receive it from God, then we will be likely to anticipate and defuse intemperate, vindictive, self-inflating false views of “grievance” and “justice” and “mercy” that contend with each other among our passions rather than taking their place in the “easy yoke” of Christ’s life. We will not become incapable of justice, or too weak to actually show mercy (in fact, the movement from the opening to the middle of the Beatitudes is a movement from powerlessness to power, as well), but will realize a strength that is not self-manufactured, one that can handle our weaknesses and those of others and still keep hold, like a bulldog, of reality: of a world in which all things serve the Creator or destroy themselves, in which turning eyes to the Redeemer and minds to the world as He makes it includes and transcends all the other works of justice and mercy we can enumerate.

And when we are trying to be just and merciful, we will suffer for it. We will never satisfy everyone whose passions contend with our reasons. We will cost ourselves opportunities, and be blamed for it. We will make mistakes, and learn from them, and still owe. We will be pushed off to the side, and have what we could justly claim taken from us. And Jesus tells us to believe that is a sign that “it’s working,” that this is part of making us truly Happy.

And not only that, it’s a real “win” if we get attacked with lies and violence just for being identified with Him–just for trying to say, however fallibly, however hypothetically, that we believe “We ought to obey God rather than men.” He doesn’t say that we shouldn’t help each other, ask for help, appeal, argue, defend, use all just means–but he does say, “It’s working REALLY well if that’s how they treat you!”

And you know why you can be pretty sure it’s working? Because when you know you’re trying to do all the rest right, and everything’s going wrong because you are, then you realize something:

You are really poor in spirit. You *really* need God. You *really* don’t pick how the Universe runs, or even what DNA you were born with.

And then you can keep climbing the ladder of Beatitude.