The first of the readings from the Book of Ruth is a familiar text. Ruth’s declaration of commitment to her mother-in-law and to Naomi’s God is a remarkable statement in and of itself. “For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Ruth’s dedication is, first, to Naomi, and second, to Naomi’s God. Doesn’t this reflect the way things actually go so often? We come to God, to love, to faithfulness and a sense of loyalty, to responsibility, and to an appreciation of commitment first of all through our admiration of or love for some person, or through his/her example. In particular, the Church teaches that husband and wife are supposed to mirror for each other the love and faithfulness of God.
The Gospel story we hear today is one with which we are very familiar, the question which reveals the two great commandments: love God and love our neighbor. Ruth expresses her love for Naomi and that love leads her to love of God. What makes this story so impressive is that Ruth and Naomi come from different, warring tribes. It would have been safer, easier, and likely more acceptable for Ruth to return to her own people, and let Naomi return to hers. However, Ruth does not choose the safe, easy, culturally acceptable way. She is driven by her love and respect for Naomi.
Ruth’s choice would bear great fruit for her neighbors. She would marry a Hebrew man and bear a son. That son would become the grandfather of David, from whom Jesus descended. Ruth’s adherence to the command of love is one worth emulating, that we may continue to build and bring forth the kingdom of God.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator