Ruth and Hesed
- Reading I: Ruth 1:1-22 (passim)
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 146
- Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:34-40
The Story of Ruth
We read the book of Ruth today and tomorrow. The book became important because of the final genealogy which connects the son of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, to King David. But apart from that it is also the story of how a Moabitess becomes part of the family of Israel. Matthew remembers Ruth and Boaz in his genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
The book of Ruth is a story about "hesed" — a Hebrew word which means a lot of things. It can mean, loyalty, fidelity, generosity. It is most often translated as "grace" or "favor". Ruth shows "hesed" in her loyalty to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and by submitting herself to the levirate law. Boaz shows "hesed" to Ruth and to Naomi by undertaking the role of Go’el even to the point of transacting for it. Both are instrumental for turning Naomi’s bitterness into "sweetness".
Today, we read the introduction to the story. Naomi loses her sons and husband and returns to Judah embittered. Her daughter-in-law Ruth accompanies her inspite of Naomi’s protests. Two widows living together is not really ideal. The focus of the selection is Ruth’s declaration of fidelity: "Wherever you go I shall go; wherever you live there I shall live; your people will be my people, your God will be my God too.
Read this brief article on the Book of Ruth Suite 101: Sampling the Story of Ruth The article can be outlined as follows:
- An Outline/Summary of the Book of Ruth
- Discussion of Customs that are Strange To Us
- Concern for Progeny and Land
- The Role of the Go’el
- Levirate Law
The article was written describing the book of Ruth as a sample of biblical narrative.
The Greatest Commandment
The Gospel selection is on the two-commandments of love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us two important paragraphs on the theme:
2055 When someone asks him, "Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?" Jesus replies:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets." The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:
The commandments: "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
1889 Without the help of grace, men would not know how "to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse." This is the path of charity, that is, of the love of God and of neighbor. Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it. Charity inspires a life of self-giving: "Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it."
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