As we pause in preparation for Easter, we think about why it was all so necessary. Why are we spiritually desperate for righteousness? Where can we look for righteousness? Why is the world deplete of righteousness?
Righteousness is not on the mind of most people when they wake up each morning. It’s not my top priority. If you are like me, there are many other things on your mind when you first wake up. We focus on our bodily needs for food, our relationships needs, our self-esteem needs. Acquiring righteousness is not a high priority on our daily to-do list because we don't think we have a great need for righteousness.
Jesus understood that righteousness is what we need most from our time on this earth because we have to have it to spend eternity with God. From Jesus’ perspective it is the basic need of all humans. We would never know how desperate we are for righteousness if God had not entered our world to show us the problem. We only become desperate for righteousness when God shows us that we don't have it! Even then, we don't fully understand what righteousness is all about.
The Lenten season is the perfect time to consider the reality of righteousness. We call our bodies, minds and spirits to consider our plight of unrighteousness through focusing on repentance. We take forty days to wake up our souls to think differently. We force ourselves to face the realities we are often too distracted to consider. With the cross, burial, and resurrection in mind, we ponder what it was really all about. Why did Jesus have to suffer so much in order for us to get righteousness?
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This verse is the great conclusion to Jesus’ words to us about worry from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus proliferates on the agony and senselessness of worry. Knowing our souls and how distracted we get about what we will eat, what we will wear and how we will look, He invites us instead to focus our desperation on the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Jesus tells us that God has taken care of those other needs, so expect Him to make sure you have enough to eat, something to wear and a place to sleep tonight. Instead of worrying about the things of this world, focus your attention on the spiritual realities of this world. Think about God and why He has put you here at this time in the history of the universe. Open your eyes to His kingdom work and desire to live in the spiritual world.
St. John of the Cross has been a great guide to me in pursing righteousness. He tells us the spiritual journey really takes off after a Dark Night of the Senses in which we find ourselves freed up from the worries of the world. St. John of the Cross explains:
“Hence, we call this nakedness a night for the soul, for we are not discussing the mere lack of things; this lack will not divest the soul if it craves for all these objects. We are dealing with the denudation of the soul’s appetites and gratifications. This is what leaves it free and empty of all things, even though it possesses them. Since the things of the world cannot enter the soul, they are not in themselves an encumbrance or harm to it; rather, it is the will and appetite dwelling within that cause the damage when set on these things.”
(The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriquez. ICS Publications Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington, D.C., 1991, p. 123)
If I am to follow Jesus’ instruction of desperately seeking righteousness (Matthew 6:33), then I stop seeking my natural appetites and gratifications. Try desperately to seek righteousness? You can't do it without God’s help, but just a taste of it will give your soul true freedom.