Today the message of Scripture is in the gospel. When asked about the greatest commandment of the law, Jesus answers with one of the most often quoted passages in Scripture, the most direct rule of life about the seamlessness of loving God with all that we are: heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves. (MT 22:34-40). In the first reading we have one of the best scriptural examples of the living out of this commandment: the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Book of Ruth. I love the whole story which makes great reading in its totality. I remember once at a gathering of our Sisters that Sister Linda Hogan sat in a rocking chair in our chapel and told the whole story to the congregation – not reading but having memorized what then became such a powerful lesson of compassion and committed, faithful relationship for all of us to ponder.
Defying the convention of going back to her own people after the death of her husband, Ruth chose to accompany Naomi, her mother-in-law, a widow who had also lost both her sons, back to Naomi’s land which she had earlier left because of famine there. (RU 1:1-22) I always try to put myself in the situations I read about in order to understand what was at stake in the decisions made by the major players. In this one it’s clear to me that both these women were deeply grieving as they traveled and that, in making the decision to stay with Naomi, Ruth was giving up any comfort that would be afforded her by staying in her own land: the relationships that she had built, customs of the local culture, language…Wherever you go, she says, I will go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God. Her wholehearted commitment to the care of her mother-in-law is an example to me and causes me to ponder my willingness to “love my neighbor as myself” in great and small ways every day.