This Sunday, we continue with our study of the Beatitude with this portion:
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled."
What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? Next week, I'll write more about those verbs, hungering and thirsting.
Why righteousness? Why are we hungering and thirsting for this quality? What does it mean?
One of the traditional ways to interpret the word righteousness is to talk about moral correctness, about doing what God has told us to do, about living the right way, about keeping the commandments.
Many of us have been harmed by that way of thinking, by being told what proper children should do, how good wives should behave, about what kind of desire is O.K. and what is not, about how we must constrain ourselves into the forms that have been deemed to be acceptable.
But we have been reminded over and over again that Jesus does not come to judge us this way. God may be sorrowful over our actions, but it's not because we're not following some ancient code. It's because our actions are so harmful and not allowing us to live the kind of wonderful lives that God knows are possible for us.
What if righteousness is not about our individual lives? A more modern interpretation might take a larger intrepretation--we are hungering and thirsting for a society that is more just, more merciful, more like God's kingdom than the empires that oppress us.
Walter Wink reminds us that even if we believe in free will, this belief doesn't mean that God can't act in the world. But God won't act if we don't ask or demand it: "This is a God who works with us and for us, to make and keep human life humane. And what God does depends on the intercessions of those who care enough to try to shape a future more humane than the present" (Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, page 301).
It's important to remember that there are many ways to work for justice, and one of the most important is to keep in our minds a vision of a better world, a place of peace and justice. Too many of us succumb to despair. We can't believe that change will come. Yet the history of the late twentieth century teaches us that social change may come in what appears to be a sudden instant, although observant people have been preparing for years or decades.
We are called to be part of that creative process.