The Blessedness of Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Justice
1. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice,” says Jesus Christ, “for they shall be satisfied.” (Mt. 5:6) These words oblige us to seek justice in our actions if we desire the happiness which Our Lord promises to the just.
We must understand, of course, what is intended here by the word "justice." It may be interpreted in two ways. According to its most common meaning, justice is the cardinal virtue which obliges us to give every man his due. Often in Sacred Scripture, however, the word is synonymous with perfection or holiness; that is, it is the synthesis of all the virtues. It is in this sense that Jesus employs the term when He says: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be given you besides.” (Mt. 6:33)
In its fullest sense, then, justice embraces our relations with God, with ourselves, and with our neighbour. In the first place, we must be just towards God and, therefore, in accordance with the Gospel precept, we must “render to God the things that are God's.” (Mt. 22:21)Since everything belongs to God, our Creator and Redeemer, we must offer everything to Him, including ourselves, all that we are and all that we possess. We have only obligations in regard to God, and no rights, because we have received everything from Him. We ought to obey Him, therefore, as our supreme lawgiver. We ought to adore Him and to love Him with a greater love that we have for any creature or for ourselves, because He is the highest good which merits all our love and which alone can satisfy us. We should express our love, moreover, by our actions and by the complete dedication of ourselves to His honour and glory.
Justice, then, is in fact Christian perfection and is the synthesis of all the virtues. That great pagan writer, Cicero, had already perceived this when he wrote that "piety is the foundation of all the virtues," (Planc., 12) and that "piety is justice in regard to God." (Nat. D., I, 41) Justice in our relations with God demands that we adore, love, and obey Him. In this way we lay the basis of all the virtues.
2. We must also be just towards ourselves. God has established a hierarchy of faculties in human nature. There are the lower faculties, which are often moved to action by our passions, and above these there is right reason, which ought to govern all else through the will. According to St. Thomas, the rule of right reason within us should be comparable to that of God in the universe. (De Regim. Principum, I, 12) "It is fitting," he says elsewhere, "that everything in man should be subject to reason." (S. Th., I-II, q. 100, a. 2 ad 1) St. Augustine observes that, as the lower faculties should obey the intellect, so the intellect should be subject to God and should fulfil His holy law. (Cf. De Serm. Domini in Monte, Bk. I, c. 2.)
In this way there exists in us absolute justice, which is the harmony of perfection. If the passions, however, rebel and dethrone reason, or if reason revolts against God, there follows the degradation of human nature, the triumph of sin, remorse, and spiritual ruin.
3. We must be just, finally, in our dealings with others. This rules out theft, homicide, detraction, calumny, and hatred of our neighbour. We can be unjust to our neighbour not only in material things, but also in the moral order. Christian justice, moreover, makes many demands on us which we do not sufficiently consider. If our neighbour is hungry, we are obliged to assuage his hunger. If he is ill-clad, homeless, or out of work, the Gospel tells us that we are obliged to help him and to console him by every means in our power, even if this necessitates sacrifice on our part. This is the Christian justice without which neither faith nor charity can survive. The man who lacks this virtue will one day be condemned by the Supreme Judge with the terrifying words: "Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire."