The story of Ruth, the Moabite woman, who stays with her mother-in-law after her own husband’s death and devotes herself to the older woman after she returns to her own people, is one of the most beautiful stories of the Old Testament. We read a portion of it today at Mass.
“Do not ask me to forsake you or abandon you,” Ruth says to her, “for wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God will be my God.”
The Book of Ruth is more than a story of love and loyalty, however. The author of Ruth reminds us over and over that she’s a Moabite, from a people often enemies of the Jews. The tender story is placed among the books of Joshua and Judges which often call for fighting and exterminating foreigners. Be careful, this story says. Your enemies may be better and more loving than you. Don’t demonize outsiders. Admire and imitate what you see.
If we look, stories of love are found everywhere. What’s more, Ruth is among the ancestors of Jesus Christ, whose love extends to all. “Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, the father of David,” Matthew writes, tracing his family roots. (Matthew 1, 5-6)
Like her, he never forsakes or abandons us. We are his people and he is our God.