By Virginia Forrester

This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:25 am in the Library of the Apostolic Vatican Palace.

Taking up the series of catecheses on the Beatitudes, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the fourth: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to the faithful.

The General Audience ended with the Apostolic Blessing.

* * *

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In today’s audience, we continue to meditate on the luminous way of happiness, which the Lord has given us in the Beatitudes, and we come to the fourth: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

We have already met with poverty in the spirit and mourning; now we are confronted with a further type of weakness — that connected with hunger and thirst. Hunger and thirst are primary needs; they are about survival. This is underlined: here it’s not about a generic desire, but about a vital and daily need, as nourishment. However, what does it mean to have hunger and thirst for righteousness? We are certainly not speaking of those that want revenge. In fact, in the preceding Beatitude, we spoke of meekness. Injustices certainly wound humanity; human society is in urgent need of equity, of truth and of social justice; we remember that the evil suffered by the women and men of the world reaches up to the heart of God the Father. What father wouldn’t suffer by the pain of his children? The Scriptures speak of the pain of the poor and of the oppressed, which God knows and shares. Having listened to the cry of oppression raised by the children of Israel — as the Book of Exodus recounts (Cf. 3:7-10) — God went down to deliver His people.

However, the hunger and thirst for the righteousness of which the Lord speaks to us is still more profound than the legitimate need of human justice that every man bears in his heart. In the same “Sermon on the Mont,” further along, Jesus speaks of a much greater justice than a human right or personal perfection, saying: ”Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:20). And this is the righteousness that comes from God (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30). We find expressed in the Scriptures a more profound thirst than the physical, which is a desire placed at the root of our being. A Psalm says: “O God, Thou art my God, I seek Thee, my soul thirsts for Thee, as in a dry and weary land without water” (Psalm63:1). The Fathers of the Church speak of this restlessness that dwells in man’s heart. Saint Augustine says: “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”[1] There is an interior thirst, an interior hunger, a restlessness . . .

In every heart, even in the most corrupt person and far from the good, is hidden a yearning for light, even if it is under the rubble of deceits and errors, but there is always the thirst for truth and goodness, which is the thirst for God. It’s the Holy Spirit that rouses this thirst: He is the living water that has molded our dust, He is the creator breath that has given it life.

Therefore, the Church is sent to proclaim to all the Word of God, permeated by the Holy Spirit. Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest righteousness that can be offered to humanity’s heart, which has a vital need of it, even if it doesn’t realize it.[2]

For instance, when a man and a woman marry they have the intention of doing something great and beautiful, and if they keep alive this thirst, they will always find the way to go on, in the midst of problems, with the help of Grace. Young people also have this thirst, and they must not lose it! It’s necessary to protect and nourish in children’s hearts that desire for love, tenderness, acceptance, which they express in their sincere and luminous impulses.

Every person is called to rediscover what really counts, what he is truly in need of, what makes one live well and, at the same time, what is secondary, and of what one can calmly do without.

In this Beatitude — hunger and thirst for righteousness — Jesus announces that there is a thirst that won’t be disappointed; a thirst that, if seconded, will be satiated and will always have a good end, because it corresponds to the heart itself of God, to His Spirit, which is love, and also to the seed that Holy Spirit has sowed in our hearts. May the Lord give us this grace: to have this thirst for righteousness that is in fact the wish to find it, to see God and to do good to others.

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

In Italian

In this moment, I would like to address all the sick that have the virus and that suffer the illness and the many that suffer uncertainties about their own sicknesses. My heartfelt thanks to the hospital personnel, the doctors, the nurses and the volunteers, who in this very difficult moment are next to the people that suffer.

I thank all the Christians, all the men and women of goodwill that pray for this moment, all united, regardless of the religious tradition to which they belong; my heartfelt thanks for this effort. However, I would not like this pain, this very strong epidemic make us forget the poor Syrians that are suffering at the border between Greece and Turkey: a people suffering for years. They must flee from war, from hunger, from sicknesses. Let us not forget our brothers and sisters, the many children that are suffering there.

I would also like to thank the parish of the “Due Palazzi” prison of Padua: thank you so much. Yesterday I received the draft of the Via Crucis, which you have done for the coming Good Friday. Thank you for having worked all together, the whole prison community. Thank you for the depth of your meditations.

Now a particular greeting goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. May you be able to live this Lenten time with your gaze fixed on Jesus, who suffered and rose, receiving from His Spirit consolation and meekness.

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

[1] The Confessions, 1, 1.5.

[2] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2017: “The grace of the Holy Spirit confers upon us the righteousness of God. Uniting us by faith and Baptism to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, the Spirit makes us sharers in his life.”

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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