The Beatitudes: Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness

Bible passage

Luke 1:46-55, Matt 5:6


The UK has more than 400 foodbanks. In the last six months alone, they have given out over half a million food parcels to individuals or families in need- and yet we’re the fifth biggest economy in the world. Supermarkets are beginning to change their practice on discarding unsold food at the end of the day, but levels of food waste are still scandalously high.

The Bible repeatedly uses images of food and drink as a metaphor for justice and fulfilment. When Mary hears Gabriel’s message that she is to become the mother of Jesus, she breaks out into a song of radical reversal: ‘God has filled the hungry with good things, but he has sent the rich away empty’. For too long, those who were literally hungry, or hungry for justice, were expected to wait for fulfilment: if you were patient in this life you would get your reward in eternity, so there was no point in protesting. It’s possible to read the Beatitudes that way too: ‘Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled’. But Mary suggests something different. Mary’s whole song is a challenge to the accepted order of things. The great, the powerful, the proud have to make way now for the poor, the hungry, those on the edge. Instead of having to wait endlessly for food, or justice, she speaks as if it has already happened- as if nothing is impossible.

I’m writing just as massive change is unfolding in Zimbabwe. A reversal which once seemed impossible has finally happened. There’s still a very long way to go; but those who have worked and prayed for justice there, who still hunger and thirst for righteousness elsewhere, are singing Mary’s song.

Practical action

a) At the end of the term, work together with your local church, your university chaplaincy and/or your student union to collect unused, in-date food from student kitchens which can be donated to the local foodbank or homeless shelter. As Christmas approaches, there are a lot of families who won’t be able to afford treats or presents for their children, so chocolates, sweets and toys are especially welcome.

b) Check out whether there’s a branch of Fareshare near you:
They collect unused food from supermarkets and distribute it to local charities, but they’re always in need of volunteers to collect, sort, pack and deliver. Could that be you?



God incarnate, who came to live among us,
We celebrate your presence with joy
and give thanks that in your humanity
you shared our human need for nourishment.
You understand the hunger and thirst
known by millions around the world today.
God in our midst, radiant in Spirit and righteousness in the darkness,
We bring our praise and worship to you
and share in your gift of hope this Christmas
So all may know your promise of life in all its fullness. Amen. 

(© Christian Aid 2017) 

Written by Revd Rowan Williams, Anglican Chaplain at the University of York, an SCM affiliated chaplaincy. 

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