Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time – Mt 23:1-12 – Odd years
Since today is Saturday, and it’s the day where we typically honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, I’d like to consider the first reading from the book of Ruth. It’s unfortunate that we skip over so much of it: we started hearing it yesterday, on Friday, and today we’ve heard the happy ending of the story. We might wonder what all of this has to do with Mary; in fact, it has a lot to do with Mary.
When Matthew gives the genealogy of Jesus, there are very few women listed: among them, however, are the Blessed Virgin Mary and “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” All that makes Ruth King David’s great-grandmother. Likewise, Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, was from Bethlehem, and so when she decides to go back after the husband and sons die, she heads, together with Ruth, to Bethlehem.
It’s interesting that Ruth decided to go with Naomi. After all, Ruth was a Moabite, and hence a pagan. Yet, she tells Naomi (this was in Friday’s reading) “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Your God will be my God. There was something about Naomi’s faith, her example and trust, that led Ruth to go with her.
In a series of events that some describe as “a Hallmark movie,” Ruth happens to go to the field of Boaz, who is the only relative who can marry her (the technical term in Hebrew is Goel, meaning, Redeemer). Yet, their conversation in today’s reading echoes a conversation that will happen many years later: Ruth, “casting herself prostrate upon the ground, said to him, ‘Why should I, a foreigner, be favored with your notice?’” A few verses later, she refers to herself as his servant. In a few hundred years, Mary will be told, with the same Greek words, that she has found favor with the Lord, and she will reply by saying that she is the handmaid, the servant, of the Lord.
So, we might ask: all this is interesting, but what does it have to do with us? On the one hand, we are reminded that we need to trust in God; the start of Ruth’s happy ending started out with an unhappy ending: the death of her father-in-law, her husband, and her brother-in-law. That’s a lot of sadness, but it was precisely that sorrow and faithful devotion to her mother-in-law that led her, not only to the Promised Land and the faith of Israel, but even to have a part in the lineage of the Redeemer.
We’re also reminded that we, too, need to imitate Jesus in everything that we do. He is our model and guide, and the one who gives us the grace necessary to follow Him. Ruth imitated Him in His loving devotion, Boaz in his redeeming of what was lost, and both of them in fidelity to each other in marriage.
Finally, we’re reminded never to give up hope for the conversion of our friends, families, and the world. From the heart of pagan territory, God brought forth someone who formed part of the lineage of Christ.
Let us pray, in a particular way through the intercession of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, for the grace to give ourselves entirely in God’s service, and to follow the example of Christ, who shows us how to live and how to love.