XVII. The final two beatitudes – those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and the pure of heart – conclude this section.
First, Pope Benedict recalls all those figures of history, even though who lived before the time of Jesus and those who do not know Christian faith. Here, he appeals to a rightly-formed conscience, open to every person made in the image of God. This does not mean we simply go along with whatever the norms and customs of our time, group, or belief system propose; the path of familiarity and the path of least resistance are not the path of righteousness. Rather, Jesus is promising that when we are attentive to objective truth and able to rise above what the “crowds” are saying, being truly hungry and thirsty for that truth, then we find blessing, and eventually will find Christ, the source of that Truth.
Second, the “pure of heart” speaks to the deepest sense of ourselves, our identity and motivations, our longings and hopes: the heart. For the Jewish people, the heart was the seat of the person’s core being. To be pure of heart, then, was to centered on God, single-minded, a person of integrity. This integrity is seen in living out our beliefs consistently. As we know from the Gospels, Jesus had no patience with hypocrisy – to sound pious and holy but live in contradiction to that image. The pure of heart are those who strive for that inner consistency of values and actions. Indeed, “the ascent to God occurs precisely in the descent of humble service, in the descent of love, for love is God’s essence” (95).
Across the centuries, there have been people who have rejected and maligned the Beatitudes as being unrealistic, or neglecting or even justifying worldly suffering and injustice, or robbing our joy in this life. The lure of a kind of secular humanism – that we must create a paradise here, for ourselves, by our own power, without relying on God – takes various forms over time, but always ends in the same disappointment of our hopes and expectations. Without conversion, without a humble recognition of God and our dependence, we simply substitute one kind of suffering and injustice for another. We face, over and over, the need to choose: to say, “I have what I need, God can wait”; or to say: “God has what I need, I can wait.”