Both of the readings for mass today are beautiful. They are beautiful because of love. Love completely illuminates the words in the scripture verses we have for mass today. Ruth grew to love her mother in law like her own mother. Sometimes love doesn’t make any rhyme or reason, it simply is. As we journey through our lives, most of us fall in love and get married and have children, but love doesn’t always stop there. There are many different kinds of love, as many different kinds of love as there are people. Love turns up when you least expect it sometimes. Life has a lot of twists and turns and it may not always turn out the way that we hoped it would, like Ruth and Naomi’s case today, but that doesn’t mean life has to become empty. After the death of a loved one, a big empty place remains. We can sit back and do nothing and let the weeds creep in, or we can choose what, (and more importantly who) will fill the empty space in our lives. Naomi had it right. She clung to her faith in God. Ruth clung to Naomi and embraced her God as well. Love is the bond that holds us together and it really is the only thing of value in our lives. We lose sight of that sometimes. Love is what life is all about.
Naomi and Ruth did not have anything but each other. Ruth later went to glean the left over grain in the fields after the harvest, just so Naomi and her would be able to eat. But, they were just happy to be together. For those of us who are married, remember how you felt the first year you were married? Newly weds usually do not have very much in the way of material things, but that first year of marriage, they don’t seem to mind it. We would do well to get back to the basics of life too. To learn to live with less material things, but have more time for each other.
The gospel today starts out sounding a lot like a court room drama, when one of the Pharisees, a lawyer asks Jesus a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Before we go any further, maybe we should ask ourselves this same question. We know the correct answer, but does our life reflect what we believe? Naomi’s life sure did. She set her daughter in laws free to return to their own people and Naomi was prepared to face life depending on God alone. But, God had a little surprise in store for her. Ruth loved her like her own mother and had come to embrace her God as well.
Jesus answered the Pharisee “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.” God is supposed to be in the first place in our lives. Jesus repeatedly taught us to love God, our Father above everything else in life. He did too.
Sometimes it seems a little easier to love Jesus because he is part human and we can relate to a human being. Our concept of God is sometimes a little blurred, fuzzy or unclear. He can only be known through prayer. This is why Jesus taught us the Our Father Prayer. The Kingdom of God is within us, and all around us, and that is indeed why we should seek Him, with all of our heart, with all of our soul and with all of our mind. “Seek and you will find.” Make God a priority in your life and seek Him in prayer. Reach for Him in prayer and He will reach back for you. God will reveal Himself to you a little at a time, or sometimes all at once. Pray from the heart. When He speaks to your heart, when you experience a taste of His love for you in prayer, you will want to seek Him more deeply in prayer throughout your day.
It is the same with the second commandment. It is funny, but the smallest act of love for another person can sometimes bring an avalanche of love into our lives. People seem to have an inclination to wait for others to show them love. Sometimes they wait a lifetime for someone to show them love. They never learn the secret. Love first. It’s that simple. Love first. Be the first to love, the first to show love and you will trigger a response of love so great you will naturally want to show your love for others more and more. And yes, sometimes people are too focused on receiving love and do not return it back to you, but love them anyway. You might be surprised how things turn out on down the road. Love is never wasted. It is the only thing that lasts.
These words are probably nothing new to you, but sometimes we just need a reminder of what is really important in life. And, Jesus explained this to us in two short sentences today. It will take us a lifetime to fully understand these sentences, but they are simple enough for a child to understand or maybe even a lawyer like the Pharisee in today’s gospel!