In Jesus’ telling of the Beatitudes, he declares, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. What does this mean? Righteousness was the result of ‘right living’…or following God’s way in their lives. This gift was the notion that God not only heard your prayers, but worked on your behalf. God’s continual evidence was an undeniable faithfulness to God’s people, and in particular, a concern for the poor and oppressed.
In Jesus’ time, the people at large felt the oppressive nature of the Roman Empire along with the onerous laws of the Pharisees being placed on them. They were hungry for salvation, not in the sense of heaven in the beyond, but in the rescue that their ancestors received in the days of slavery in Egypt. Among them was a remnant faithful, which desired nothing more than to follow the way of God and bless their children and community.
The challenge to this was often their own leaders who were living intoxicated with their self-righteousness and elitist mentality. These leaders were both judge and jury. Their ways often led to their own patting on the back at the expense of the inclusive way of God. In fact, Jesus launches into a series of ‘woes’ for the way they had prevented the people to grow and the heavy burdens they placed on the people (read Matthew 23!). The invitation of Christ was to come and see, to learn and be changed, to grow and to bless! Jesus’ way was to be teachable and open to a way of life that invites and shares rather than hoards and abuses. And so he declares that the blessed people are the ones seeking to learn through their hungering and thirsting for the way of God!