Sunday, July 27, 2014
Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld: Ruth in Boaz’s Field
Chesed – Part II
The story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz is a tale about family, integrity, honor, honesty and fidelity. It is also about God’s providence and love; and it is about returning to the covenant relationship we have with God that is marked by “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. (Meeks 408) If there is time this weekend, read this story from beginning to end. It will warm your heart.
“The book contains a beautiful example of filial piety . . . Its aim is to demonstrate the divine reward for such piety even when practiced by a stranger . . . [Ruth] became the ancestress of David and of Christ. In this, the universality of the messianic salvation is foreshadowed”. (Senior 278)
Today we enter the drama at the point where Ruth, the stranger in this land of the one living God, goes for the first time to glean what she can so that she and her mother-in-law might survive. It is when she is in the field gathering the leftovers that she meets Boaz for the first time. Keeping in mind that a widow in ancient society was considered a burden rather than an asset, we see how well Boaz treats her. He does not take advantage of her diminished status; rather, he seeks to support and protect her from the impure, unwanted – yet legal – advances of others. He cautions her to glean only in his fields, and he warns off the men who work for him, making certain – as much as he is able – that Ruth might gather enough to support herself and her mother-in-law. He even allows her to glean among the sheaves themselves rather than just the edges of the field. It is clear that he is taken by Ruth yet he does not take advantage of her. In subsequent chapters Boaz fulfills all honor obligations so that he might marry Ruth according to the law and tradition of the time. So we see that “Ruth’s piety . . . her spirit of self-sacrifice, and her moral integrity were favored by God with the gift of faith and an illustrious marriage”. (Senior 278) But first she was widowed, followed her widowed mother-in-law to a new land, and set about doing what she might so that they both might survive.
Ruth does what she must, given what she is given. Ruth gleans where God sends her and in so doing, she harvests more than the ephahs of barley that she takes home to Naomi; she becomes the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, king of the Jews. Ruth appears in Jesus’ genealogy: Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. (Matthew 1:5).
In the times when we feel widowed, abandoned or alone . . .
In the times when we feel the overpowering burden of providing for self or others . . .
In the times when we feel that we have arrived in a foreign land with new traditions and customs . . .
In the times that we feel exhausted from the gleaning we have done for endless days . . .
Let us remember the goodness and wisdom of Naomi . . .
Let us remember the integrity and protection of Boaz . . .
Let us remember the piety and self-sacrifice of Ruth . . .
And let us remember the merciful justice, the guidance, and the love of the Lord. For these are the things that save.
Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 404. Print.
Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.278. Print.
Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2010.