Saturday of the Twentieth Week of the Year I
Ruth 2:1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17
Psalm 127: 1-5
A Virtuous Woman
The book of Ruth is one of the most charming in all of Sacred Scripture. Its tone is quiet and reflective. Ruth, the book’s heroine is a Moabitess, but she has all the virtues of a daughter of Israel pleasing to God. She is humble, tender, faithful, gentle, and courageous. When her mother-in-law Naomi was not only widowed, but also left bereft of her two sons, and this in a foreign land, Ruth was moved to compassion and chose to remain united to her mother-in-law, and to return from Moab to Bethlehem with her.
Thy God My God
Ruth’s words to Naomi are among the most beautiful expressions of friendship in the Bible. “Be not against me, to desire that I should leave thee and depart: for whithersoever thou shalt go, I will go: and where thou shalt dwell, I also will dwell. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. The land that shall receive thee dying, in the same will I die: and there will I be buried.” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Boaz Marries Ruth
In today’s reading, the two women have arrived in Naomi’s country of origin where Ruth asks leave of Naomi to go and glean in the field of Boaz. Boaz is smitten by the young widowed Moabitess and takes her as his wife. The child born of this union is Obed, the father of Jesse, and the grandfather of David.
The names recalled in today’s reading are familiar to us from the genealogy of Our Lord Jesus Christ given by Saint Matthew (Mt 1:1-17). This is the genealogy that the Church reads on December 17, the first day of the Great O Antiphons, and again at the solemn Office of Vigils that precedes the Mass of Christmas during the night. The Church’s musical tradition has graced this text with a chant melody that renders the long list of names strangely moving and memorable.
The Great-grandmother of David
Ruth, the great-grandmother of David, while not an Israelite by birth, is numbered among the ancestors of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is through Naomi that she is brought mysteriously to confess and to cling to the Lord, the God of Israel. Again, it is through mysterious circumstances that she meets Boaz and, through him, takes her place among the ancestors of the Messiah. In all of this we see Ruth’s true vocation unfold.
The Humility of Ruth
Why was God able to do with Ruth according to His will and pleasure? She was simply and profoundly humble, so humble that God was able to lead her, step by step, into the perfection of His plan. In her humility, Ruth, the ancestress of Jesus, resembles His Virgin Mother. We see here just how closely humility and faith are intertwined. Ruth’s religion was not even that of Israel; she was a Moabitess, a pagan, but her humility won for her the gift of Israel’s precious faith. Because she was humble, she was able to receive God’s gift of faith. Only the humble can let go of the things they cherish in order to receive even better things from the hand of God. Ruth let go of her native country, her customs, her gods, and her people in order to go with Naomi into something strange and unknown. Ruth humbled herself, and God rewarded her magnificently by making her an ancestress of David’s son, the Christ. This was her exalted vocation.
Our Lord teaches us in the Holy Gospel that we have but one teacher, and that we are all brethren. We have but one Father, our Father in heaven. We have but one Master, the Anointed One, the Christ. It is to Him that we must address the words of the humble Ruth today:
Entreat me not to leave Thee, O Jesus,
or to return from following Thee (Ruth 1:16),
for to whom shall we go?
Thou hast the words of eternal life;
and we have believed, and have come to know
that you Thou art the Christ, the Son of God (Jn 6:68-69).
Where Thou shalt dwell, I also will dwell (Ruth 1:16)
for in Thy Father’s house there are many mansions (Jn 14:2).
Thy people—those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev 14:4)—
shall be my people,
and Thy God my God (Ruth 1:16).
Hosanna to the Son of David
In Holy Mass, our prayer is answered, our desires wonderfully fulfilled. In the Eucharist, David’s royal Son draws us after Himself. The proud are scattered in the imagination of their hearts; those of low degree are lifted up (Lk 1:51-52). We leave behind the land of Moab and pass over, like Ruth, to Bethlehem, to the “House of Bread.” There we need not glean in the field of one unknown to us for its pleases the Father to give us “the true bread from heaven” (Jn 6:32). There, made one body by the Holy Spirit, we are the one Bride of whom Rachel, Leah, and Ruth were figures and shadows. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mt 21:9).