A study of the Beatitudes causes me to ask myself the question, “Who will be in the congregation the day I preach this sermon?” What needs might they bring with them? Will the message have a Word from God for them?”
Jesus knew His audience and was speaking directly to them as He pointed out their blessings. He saw the depressed and said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” He saw the grief stricken and said, “You are blessed because you will have the unique experience f being comforted by your Heavenly Father.” He looked at the meek and said, “You are blessed because you do not rely on your own strength, but on me.” And today Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Some have said this is the most challenging and demanding of the Beatitudes. If you have felt none of the Beatitudes have spoken to you, today is your turn for this one speaks to all of us.
In our liturgy we sing, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew within me a right spirit. How natural it is to live with bad attitudes. Sometimes terrible things happen in our lives that make us feel poor attitudes are justified. Our newspaper told of a mother whose daughter had been assaulted and murdered. When the jury found the man guilty and sentenced to death, she is quoted as saying, “I am relieved. He got what he had coming.”
This is a mother’s heart speaking out. We might all have those same feeling if it had been our daughter, but how did the jury’s decision help her? I recall one of our Lutheran pastors was robbed and murdered. His wife had her difficult days fighting hatred for the murderer. Finally, she made a decision that it was impossible for her to live this way, so she later went to the prison and visited with her husband’s murderer. Then she established a scholarship at the seminary for a black man with the prayer that he would be a preacher of the Gospel bringing the good news of salvation.
These are the changes that God can make in our lives. Do we want these drastic changes made in our lives? Some want minor changes made in their lives, but nothing that will be too drastic. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger for big changes to be made in their lives.” These are people who cannot make these changes by their own power and strength, but they cry out to God for mercy and strength that they might become new people in Christ.
But the changes are not only when hatred is killing us, because someone has killed a loved one. Thank God most people will not experience such a tragedy. It is the daily contacts with people, when our convictions on certain matters clash, where we develop strong feelings of emotion that cannot be described as righteous toward others. Let me illustrate.
Within the past few years the community where I live has attracted many people of the Moslem faith. More and more I hear people of influence express the feeling that one religion is as good as another, and that we are working for the same goal.
According to the Bible, such teaching is pure heresy. Jesus alone is the way to heaven (John 14:6). This conviction is rooted deeply in my soul, but I need to pray, “God, give me grace never to condone the viewpoint that Mohammed is an equal to Jesus. Yet, Lord, create within me a hunger for a righteous attitude that will enable me to have a good relationship with this false teacher.” How can I ever witness to this person if we live with ill will toward each other?
Many great people in the Church have experienced God creating such desires within them that they truly hunger and thirst for this kind of righteousness. Because this Beatitude is so contrary to human nature, we can grow discouraged with the progress we wetness in our lives, but together with St. Paul, “We press on to the high calling which we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you are among the blessed. This is not a natural trait, it is God given.