Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

 


Ru 2:1-11,4:13-17; Ps 128:1-5; Mt 23:1-12
“See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.”

True blessedness in the Scripture comes from two things: fear of the Lord and walking in the ways of the Lord. It was expected that everyone who shared in the life of the covenant would know this kind of blessedness. However, even some non-Jewish individuals fear the Lord and walk in his ways. These, too, could expect blessedness: abundant offspring and a share in the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of their life. The story of Ruth continues in the First Reading. This faith filled foreigner is called blessed and has a major role to play in the redemption story. The Lord Jesus instructs the crowds and his disciples about avoiding the dangers of power and prestige. Because Ruth is so humble and available to the blessing of the Lord she is able to give back to the people of her mother in law, Naomi. Even though she is a foreigner and a widow, she becomes exalted. We, too, have much for which to be thankful in this renewal of our covenant with Christ, like olive plants around his table.

Ruth stays with her mother in law, Naomi. These two widows struggle to make a living in the world. Naomi’s kinsman, Boaz, takes Ruth under his protection. She is now able to glean food enough for her and her mother in law. Boaz is so kind to her that Ruth is over whelmed, so she prostrates herself upon the ground and says to Boaz: “Why should I, a foreigner, be favored with your notice?” Boaz is inspired with the story of Ruth and her dedication to her mother in law. He retells the account of Ruth becoming one of them. She is given importance and a place in the history of Israel because like Abraham she, too, leaves the land of her fathers and comes into the Land of Promise. As Boaz explains his attraction to Ruth, “You have left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know previously.” Such faith brings them together in marriage, and blessings abound. The women proclaim Naomi and Ruth blessed because the Lord has not failed to provide a son. This heir is famous in Israel and in the New Israel; he is Obed the grandfather of David and the ancestor of the New David, Jesus the Christ. When misfortune threatens, the Lord God rescues his people and provides for them a house for David his servant. God’s faithfulness is glimpsed in the story of Ruth the humble servant, the foreign widow, who is exalted by the birth of her son Obed.

God remains faithful through the authority of the chair of Moses that is claimed by the scribes and Pharisees. The Lord Jesus honors that authority even as he critiques it. Because he loves those who know and teach the law of The Lord, he commands his disciples to obey them but not to follow their example. “For they preach but they do not practice.” Such duplicity is dangerous for the leaders and for their followers. These powerful men in Israel are weak in virtue because they command what they do not do themselves. To insure that his disciples do not follow in their ways, the Lord Jesus commands them not to use titles or seek places of honor in synagogues or in public. We, too, must keep in mind that we have only one Master, the Christ. If we spend our time and energy on finding out the needs of others and serving those needs, we will have no time to invest in our own exaltation. Then, and only then, will the greatest among us be the one who is the servant. Then, the humble servant will be exalted.