26Aug 26 August. Saturday, Week 20

1st Reading: Ruth 2:1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17

How Ruth the foreigner came to become king David’s great grandmother

Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favour.” She said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favour in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus teaches about authority and true greatness

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father – the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”


Love Conquers All

In the story of Ruth, we see how a loving spirit led this foreign woman to be accepted within the family of Israel; and according to Jesus, every commandment rests on the supreme law of love. The Book of Ruth has served many purposes. Its narrative goes back to David’s time and supports David as God’s choice for king, despite the foreign blood in his veins. During the postexilic days this book helped a minority group who opposed the idea of rigorously separating the Jews from foreigners. Around this time the book was linked with the traditional feast of Pentecost and the wheat-harvest. As Pentecost also commemorated the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, the Book of Ruth mysteriously suggested another Pentecost, when after the death of Jesus Jews from many nations were absorbed into the Church (Acts 2). We can bear this background in mind as we read this lovely story, which combines separation and loss with peace and hope, but most of all the loving, mutual concern of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. The younger woman, Ruth, is drawn by affection for Naomi to opt for faith in Yahweh, “Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”

Whereas the Great Commandment is that we love God and proceeds from there to love of neighbour, Ruth’s story seems to show this process in reverse order. Starting from her loyal love for her mother-in-law Naomi she arrives at the love of God. Elsewhere, too, the Bible affirms that this natural, healthy neighbourly love has its source and strength in divine love: We love, because God first loved us. Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem as poor widows, with little to show for their life so far. But all turns out well for them, because they are guided by love.

The unimportance of titles

Jesus tells his disciples that they have only one Father, and he is in heaven, and they have only one Teacher, namely, the Christ. Some of his disciples probably thought of themselves as teachers; indeed, at the very end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus does send them out as teachers, to make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you. Yet here he tells them, to us, ‘you have only one teacher.’

For us Christians, Jesus is the only one fully worthy of the title ‘teacher.’ He is the teacher in a way that none of his disciples, none of us, could ever be. Because he is our teacher, in our relationship with him, we are always learners. We have nothing to teach him, whereas we have everything to learn from him. That is why Jesus turns to the crowds at one point in Matthew’s gospel and says, ‘Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.’ Our calling is to keep learning from him, to be open to all he wants to teach us, in and through the circumstances of our lives, with all their light and shade. We learn from Jesus by reflecting on his words and deeds in the gospels, by reflecting on our experience, by inviting the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and to keep on leading us towards the complete truth.

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