When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye, and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. (New International Version)
Every time I read this account of Naomi and her daughters-in-law I’m reminded of my Dad because this was his favorite Old Testament story.
Dad was a lifelong farmer, and so, always related to the agrarian society of ancient Israel. But what really resonated for him in Scripture was Ruth’s response to her mother-in-law: “Your people are my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.”
My father did not want to be a farmer. He wanted to go to college and become an engineer. In fact, without my grandfather’s knowledge, he was accepted to a university and secured an on-campus job. Yet, when Grandpa found out, he was less than pleased because Dad was needed on the farm during the depression era.
So, Dad, although he could have went to college, decided to stay on the farm. And the reason he decided to do so was not because he got his arm twisted, but because of the story of Ruth. He made the decision to stick with farming and never looked back. My Dad died ten years ago and is buried in the same cemetery as his father.
The biblical character of Ruth is a solid example of one who was cognizant that she was part of a larger whole – that, although she was indeed an individual with personal choices, the decisions she made impact a much wider community. I believe Ruth discerned that the Israelite community understood this truth, and she wanted to be a part of it.
It is rare, in this age of extreme individualism, that people willingly give themselves to do what is best for the group, the family, the neighborhood, the faith community, the nation, and the world. There is a tendency to view things very narrowly in terms of what’s in it for me and ignore the rest.
So, I invite you to consider becoming ever more aware and connected to the communities around you. Discover the issues, problems, joys, sorrows, celebrations, and challenges they hold. And give yourself to the great struggles of that place. Jesus said:
If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25, CEV)
The One who is concerned to save the entire world only tolerates disciples who share his care for the entire human family.
Therefore, we ought neither to participate in nor support causes, activities, or speech that is harmful to others. Instead, we should find ways of using our particular gifts and abilities to serve the common good of all persons. We need more commitment and love, and a lot less anger, divisiveness, and hatred.
Grace and humility will always serve us, and others, very well. Judgment and pride, not so much.
Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. (1 Timothy 6:18, CEB)
How, then, shall we live?
Your people will be my people.
Can you imagine a world in which all persons ascribe to this?
May it be so, to the glory of God.
We pray to you, Lord God, for all people everywhere:
For all people in their daily life and work;
For our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone.
For our community, the nation, and the world;
For all who work for justice, freedom, and peace.
For the just and proper use of your creation;
For the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.
For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble;
For those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy.
For the peace and unity of the Church;
For all who proclaim and seek the Truth.
Hear us, Lord; For your mercy is great. Amen.