Today’s First Reading was the reading that my wife and I chose to be the first reading at our wedding because it is all about the commitment that many times can change a dreadful situation into one of joy. It is always commitment that leads us into happiness even though the initially may be tough times ahead. Looking back, we always can note growth and maturity. We see where we have gotten closer with someone else and what we were called to share with one another.
I often picture myself imaginatively in this reading as one of the characters who really isn’t in the story as a principle player. I picture myself first as being one of the dead husbands, now long gone from earth but watching over his family, still concerned and somewhat helpless at their plight. I often think that I would run to God and beg him to do something for my family. And when I do, God lends his sympathetic ear and reminds me that we do not need such miracles. That the real miracle always comes with committing one’s self to the cause of another. Imagine my surprise as a I watch my daughter-in-law, Ruth, be that miracle for Naomi! Tears stream down my heavenly face as I watch the care and gingerly way that this Moabite woman, a woman not of my own blood, but who assuredly is family, take my wife into her care when neither I nor my sons can any longer. Heaven was even no relief for this suffering of concern that Ruth has lifted from me.
Jesus later calls us to hear the two great commandments. When asked which of the commandments is the greatest, Jesus takes one from Deuteronomy 6:5 as someone who knows scripture well. But this is a commandment that most people knew very well and adhered too and there would be much agreement about this being the greatest.
However, Jesus as is his way turns it all upside down by quoting a lesser-known passage in Leviticus 19:18. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
We need this vertical relationship between us and God but we also need the horizontal relationship with others too. We can picture these relationships as two beams of the cross and we know that when we are in right relationship with God and one another that it also means that we will experience some suffering. Like Ruth who was in misery, we often find ourselves strapped down and alone. It is often another’s love, someone who loves us more than we ever imagined we could be loved that sustains us. They love us as they wish to be loved and more importantly they love as God loves.
Today may I be grateful for all the Ruth-like people in my life. The people who have cared for those that I have been unable to care for myself for reasons often beyond my control. But also, let me see the challenge in being Ruth too. Let me be unafraid to go to that place where I know discomfort will be, at least for awhile and let me stay committed to those with whom I am in relationship. To love my neighbor, as I love myself.