The second and the last passage we will read from the Book of Ruth ends with a reminder of how this Moabite widow shows up in the genealogy of Jesus as recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. She is one of four women who are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy. Three of those women were prostitutes or an adulteress. Ruth was a foreigner, a pagan woman who came to the God of Israel through her commitment to her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Matthew includes these four women for much the same reason that he writes the warnings that we hear in the Gospel today. Jewish people had come to the conclusion that they were saved simply because of the fact that they were Jewish. Jewish leaders, namely the Scribes, Pharisees, and Saducees, were even doubly sure of their place in the bosom of Abraham because of their learning and their positions of honor within the community.
However, these stories tell us all that our salvation has nothing to do with our accomplishments. We will not be saved by our personal piety and devotion. We will not find the doors of heaven opening to us because of great accomplishments or positions of leadership and honor. Our salvation is a free gift of God who put a plan in action just after Adam fell in the Garden of Eden. Ruth, a foreign woman and a member of a tribe at enmity with Israel, was a part of that plan. The leaders of Israel were frequently criticized by Jesus because they were more interested in the perks of leadership than in the responsibilities that came with that position.
Ruth is remembered for her humility and her commitment to Naomi. Jesus’ warnings ask us to emulate such humility by serving others rather than seeking to be served. As we break bread today at the Lord’s table, we pray that we may heed the warning and live it out in our lives.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, OFM, Administrator