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Friday, July 16, 2021

Ruth 3

Naomi and RuthChesed Part IV – Ruth Presents Herself

The story of Ruth is a story with characters who “are presented as models who live faithful to the spirit of the covenant even in the difficult situations of life”. (Senior RG 141) It is believed to be a true story and is best read with notes in order to understand the plight of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, the customs of land ownership, the Levirate marriage contract, the tradition of allowing widows to glean food from a harvested field, the remarkable strength of Ruth’s fidelity to her mother-in-law, and the noble loyalty of Boaz who is drawn to Ruth’s kindness and piety. As we have investigated this story, we have thought about how God moves and works through people, is ever faithful and always at hand. Today we can focus on the last verse of chapter 3 when Naomi says to Ruth, “Wait here, my daughter, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today”. These words describe true integrity, true honesty, true clarity, and true holiness. This man will not rest until he settles a matter of honor – and he will do this before the sun sets. This man will not let anything stand in the way of doing what he knows he is called to do. This man sets aside his own humanity to do the will of the divine. Again from the Readers’ Guide page RG 145: “The double meaning [of the word for feet or genitals in Hebrew] may be intended to rouse the interest of the audience, ‘to raise a few eyebrows,’ only to show that the unusual steps taken by Ruth [and recommended by Naomi] do not end up in an illicit sexual union, but reveal the honorable character of Boaz. He does not take advantage of Ruth, but agrees to take the necessary steps to marry her. He ensures her reputation is not ruined and sends her away with six measures of barley”.

The marriage of these two honorable people results in the birth of a child, Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Jesus. It is the beautiful story of how people who respond to God’s call can transform tragedy into something blessed and holy. It is also the story of God’s constant presence in our lives as we accompany one another, share our grief, and move toward the light of truth. The action begins with emptiness which is reversed by the end of the tale. “The emptiness of the land (famine) causes Naomi to leave the land. The emptiness of the land gives way to the emptiness of Naomi in the loss first of husband and then sons. Naomi dismisses her daughters-in-law because her ‘emptiness’ cannot be cured . . .” And so she returns home so that she will not be a widow in a foreign place, but not alone. Ruth follows her. Back in Bethlehem, Naomi who finds herself empty of everything that previously had meaning, says the words in 3:18. She recognizes the goodness in Boaz and Ruth and she supports the young woman who waits for the man of integrity to do what he must do to claim her as his wife. Blessings and graces follow.

And so we pray . . .

Good and generous God, make us instruments of your work as were Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Send us the words to say, the acts to perform, the prayers to raise as we enter the difficult situations of life and the pockets of emptiness around us. Send us your word that we may do your work to bring joy out of mourning. We ask this as always in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Image from: http://www.reformedchristianity.org/virtues/friendship/1659-ruth-and-naomi.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 141. Print.

Adapted from a favorite written on August 31, 2007.

 

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Ruth 4

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Chesed – Part III

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. 

This is a beautiful story about women, a happy story about what marriage is meant to be. It is also a story about constancy, fidelity, perseverance, family, ancestry, and a deep abiding love which puts the other before self. It is an image of how we might be with, and in and through Christ. It is a metaphor for the relationship we have already been gifted by our creator.

This is not a long book and still it is saturated with imagery and peopled by characters worthy of any Jane Austen novel or Shakespearean play. “The book of Ruth . . . is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature in the Bible.  The plot revolves around family relationships . . . and the role each member plays in fulfilling the needs of other members and hence the family as a whole”. (Meeks 408)

Some of us have families we might turn to; others of us do not. Some of us are born into clans that suffocate us and so we strike out on our own to build community; others find themselves in a large caring tribe that lets no one fall behind during the trek. All of us are born into the family of God and in this family there will be Naomis, and Ruths and Boazes: people who know the value of “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. Naomi guides her widowed daughters-in-law (women without men were less than human in this era). Ruth abides with Naomi to share whatever destiny comes to them. Boaz preserves both the family inheritance and individual family members in a respectful and considerate way. All three understand the importance to continuity and to the fulfillment of a pledge at cost to self. (Meeks 408) All three listen for and to God. All three find a way to follow God, to preserve legacy, and to further a lineage that produces the Messiah of the human race. And all of this without accepting abuse or losing self.

We might spend some time today with this story and with our own reflection on how we embody chesed as we weave our lives. Do we respect the traditions of the clan? Do we provide for and abide with those who are marginalized? Do we do what is just and merciful even when this may be painful? Do we gather in the harvest at the expense of others? Do we leave the gleanings for those who have none and protect them as they forage? Do we listen for the voice that calls us to strange lands and yet abides? Do we intentionally commit our own acts of chesed? And if so . . . what are they?


For more information on the beautiful story of Naomi and Ruth, click on the image above or go to: http://www.womeninthebible.net/paintings_ruth.htm

Adapted from a Favorite written on October 1, 2009.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Ruth 2

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.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Julius_Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld-_Ruth_im_Feld_des_Boaz.jpg

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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Ruth 1

Julius Hubner: Ruth and Naomi

Julius Hubner: Ruth and Naomi

Chesed – Part I – Reversal

“Famine, dislocation and death mark the beginning of the story,” we are told in notes from the HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (410). Why would we want to read any further? Because this is the story of reversal and fulfillment. It is the story of transformation and love. It is a story worth reading over and over.

In Living Faith: Catholic Devotions Winter 2010, Sr. Kathryn James Hermes tells us that we are forced to focus and face the overwhelmingly magnificent message of redemption: God is doing something new! It’s not that God realized he had made a mistake at first. It’s not that he had botched things up so badly that God decided to scrap everything and begin again with new people. Instead, Isaiah is painting a love that has grown so immense that it can create life, hope and a future even in the midst of mistakes, sin and death. This compassion is so divine that it straightens bent limbs, raises dead bodies and spirits, and transforms the dull and callous heart. God will stop at nothing to make right our erring ways. He doesn’t need to start over”.

In Isaiah 65:17-21 we read: Thus says the Lord: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create: for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.

God does not start over with Naomi and her daughters-in-law. These women did nothing to bring misfortune upon themselves. They are widows in a society which does nothing to tend to them and so they are left to fend for themselves. Yet, in following God they find themselves delivered. The message we hear in Isaiah, and the message of Lent is precisely this: God does not abandon his people, God is faithful, God turns evil to good.

We can never “botch things up” to such a degree that they are irredeemable. God does not throw us on the scrap heap to begin again. God loves us so much that he creates a newness out of our weakness. God straightens our bent-ness and enlivens our deadness. God softens hearts and brings life out of dark corners.

Wherever we are in our journey, God meets us at that spot, heals us of our wounded-ness, and carries us home as well-loved lambs.

The story of Ruth is a rich one and worth a good deal of our time. Chapter one is the bitter opening of a story that promises to be bleak; but if we invest the effort to read through to the end, we are rewarded with a story that might be our own. It is the story of full and intimate union; it is the story of reversal, of devotion, and of love.


Adapted from a reflection written on March 15, 2010.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 410. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 15.3(2010). Print.  

Image from: https://smb.museum-digital.de/index.php?t=objekt&oges=143273

Provenance/Rights: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Andres Kilger [CC BY-NC-SA]

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Ruth 1:4: God’s Yardstick – Ruth

Discovering Chesed

Friday, January 8, 2016Ruth Naomi Boaz chesed

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

We visit the story of Ruth and Naomi frequently in our Noontime visits and when we remember what takes place between these two women and Boaz, we understand why.  In the U.S. we are moving through a political season when we struggle with a number of yardsticks in an effort to evaluate candidates who ask for our time and money, our fidelity and our vote. This is a good season to remember how Ruth manages to see the world through God’s standard of love rather than the standards of fear, fortune and fame that the world asks us to use.

When we look again at how Ruth embodies the Hebrew concept of chesed, or fidelity rising from commitment, we find once again that through the quiet persistence of a woman considered an object to be owned, God brings us into intimate relationship with our way of measuring . . . and with God’s own extraordinary yardstick of love.

We return to posts Noontime on Chesed from July 2014 at: https://thenoontimes.com/2014/07/26/reversal-chesed-part-i/

When we spend time with these posts, we begin to better understand this fidelity that not only measures with love, but that overcomes all corruption, death, and violation.

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Ruth : Devotion


Ruth : Devotion

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Ruth in Boaz's Field

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Ruth in Boaz’s Field

February 28, 2015

If you have not read the story of Ruth, a Moabite woman who joins the Israelite people by marriage and lives out her life of fidelity in a remarkable manner, take some time today with this short book. It will be well worth the time spent. “The book contains a beautiful example of piety . . . [and] its aim is to demonstrate the divine reward for such piety . . . [Ruth’s] spirit of self-sacrifice, and her moral integrity were favored by God with the gift of faith and an illustrious marriage whereby she became the ancestress of David and of Christ”. (Senior 278)

Begin in Moab where Naomi has migrated with Elimelech and their sons Mahlon and Chilion. Find out why Naomi, Orpah and Ruth find themselves alone and seeking help. Return to Bethlehem with Naomi and Ruth. Meet Boaz, Naomi’s cousin, and discover how he lives out a life of fidelity that dovetails with Ruth’s piety.

Ruth says to her mother-in-law Naomi, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. (Ruth 1:16-18)

Reflect on the concept of piety and spend time this weekend to re-define the quality. Explore its many meanings and determine how Ruth brings this beautiful essence to bloom in a life that showed only the promise of abandonment and ruin. Then we might explore what kind of devotion this story inspires in each of us.

For more reflections, enter the word Ruth in the blog search bar and explore. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.278. Print.   

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Pieter Lastman: Ruth Declares her Loyalty to Naomi

Pieter Lastman: Ruth Declares her Loyalty to Naomi

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ruth 1:19-22

Return to Bethlehem

A Reprise

The story of Ruth is a tale of fidelity, self-sacrifice, moral integrity, faith, and divine reward for piety.  The people we read about today are in Jesus’ family tree and as always, with God, the message is clear when we look and listen: If something is bound to happen, no one can intervene, and if something is not going to happen, no one can cause it to happen . . . except God.  God is in charge.

This story shows the proper covenant relationship between the Creator and the created. God is always present – yet in the background.  We who are made in God’s image are called to act as God does, with fidelity, compassion and persistence. We see God take action through people who respond to his call and in this way God’s actions are mediated by his people.

This story shows how tragedy can be transformed when we allow ourselves to serve as conduits for God’s love to a waiting world.  It also shows how God is actualized in the lives of the faithful.  Scholars point out that the story of Ruth is very much a story of Judges in reverse. She is a woman from a pagan nation whose people battled against Israel but Ruth forsakes her little gods of Moab to faithfully serve the Living God, Yahweh.  Matthew includes Ruth in Jesus’ genealogy to remind us that God’s ultimate plan is to include diverse nations in his family tree.  Ruth is in many ways what Israel was called to be. And she is also what we are called to be.  Faithful, trusting, persistent, loving, and always returning home.

Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest – a harvest that plays an important part in the story that is unfolding – and the town celebrates this return. Recalling that women without men were less valuable than animals in these ancient times, we can only be in awe of their courage in the face of tragedy, their obedience in the face of impossibility, and their trust in the face of overwhelming odds. Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem, and in so doing they return to God. As we pause in our Jeremiah journey, let us consider the value of this homecoming.

Adapted from a reflection written on August 14, 2007.

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