Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. (Matthew 6:33)
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (Romans 3:21-22)
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:20-28)
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
In the last article, “Finishing Well Our Life as Catholic Men,” we quoted St. Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:8: “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” We also know from the Scriptures above that we are called to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), to seek his righteousness” (6:33), and to have a “righteousness that is by faith” (Romans 3:22). But what does it mean to live a righteous life? What does it mean to clothe ourselves with the “righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) that is ours in Christ? And how is Jesus calling each one of us, as Catholic men, to live out this righteousness?
We know that every day we are faced with innumerable decisions regarding right and wrong behavior, but the world urges us not to think too deeply about these things, especially our own righteousness. Just find the quick and easy answer to every challenge, and we’ll be happy. That philosophy can even finds its way into our view of the Christian life.
As fallen human beings, as sinners, can we really simplify God’s eternal plan of salvation into an easy-to-follow three-step plan to live a righteous life? If it was that simple, wouldn’t you expect the “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20) to be more than enough? After all, they were quite rigorous in their observances.
Maybe instead of thinking of surpassing the Pharisees in terms of the amount of things we do—for instance, five steps instead of three steps—we should think of it in terms of the kind of things we do. It’s helpful to see that right after telling us to go beyond the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus tells us (Matthew 5:21-27) not to be angry with each other. He tells us to be quick to forgive and cautions us against calling one another fools. He tells us that even lustful thoughts can be considered adultery. So the righteousness Jesus is talking about isn’t just a matter of doing more pious acts. It’s a matter of loving more. It’s a matter of giving generously, forgiving readily, letting go of resentments immediately, and being faithful, even in our minds, to our covenant with our wives.
These are challenging words. Jesus is asking us to do nothing less than to rise above our human flaws and weaknesses. He is asking us to show the same kind of love for other people that he has for us. Of course, he is offering us his grace and help to do it, but it is still up to us to choose this righteous path.
Is there someone you have tried to forgive but have been unable to? Or are you harboring anger or resentment against someone? We can’t go around saying, “Justice for them, but mercy for me Lord.” Ask Jesus to fill you with his love so that you can take another step closer to his level of holiness. Ask Jesus for the grace to love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and even your enemies, to the best of your ability. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen. Jesus’ grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“Lord, I want to clothe myself in your righteousness. I ask for the grace to love others as you have loved me, to forgive others as you have forgiven me, and to care for others as you have so generously cared for me.”
(Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing me to adapt some material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus says we will be blessed if we “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Have you ever asked the Lord to give you a deeper hunger and thirst? If not, are you willing to ask him in faith for it?
2. How are you doing in handling the many challenges and temptations you face every day that keep you from living a “righteous” life. What steps can you take to improve on how you are doing?
3. In the article we hear these words: “So the righteousness Jesus is talking about isn’t just a matter of doing more pious acts.” What do you think this means?
4. The article goes on to ask these questions: “Is there someone you have tried to forgive but have been unable to? Or are you harboring anger or resentment against someone?” If the answer is yes to either of these, do you believe Jesus’ grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) to allow you to change? Are you willing to ask Jesus for “the grace to love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and even your enemies, to the best of your ability”?
5. If you are in a men’s group pray for one another for the grace to live righteous lives as Catholic men. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.