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Saturday – Twentieth week – OT1
Readings: Ruth 2:1-3, 8-11, 4:13-17; Mt 23:1-12.
1/ First Reading: RSV Ruth 2:1 Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she set forth and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my maidens. 9 Let your eyes be upon the field which they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to molest you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” 11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.RSV Ruth 4:13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next of kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 23:1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
I. THEME: God looks down on those who humbly serve others.
Many people desire power, fame and authority, so when they have to do something, they like to do them before a crowd, to be praised and selected in high positions. In opposition, God loves the poor, the humble and those who serve others, as the Magnificat which we used to pray in the evening prayer, “(God)has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away” (Lk 1:52-53). The Blessed Virgin’s case is a typical exemplar: from a lowly maidservant, God raises her to be the Queen of both heaven and earth.
Today readings compare these two kinds of people. In the first reading, out of her loving service for her mother-in-law, Ruth was ready to accept sacrifice by gleaning among the ears of grain to find food for both of them. This lowly service couldn’t be hidden from Boaz and God. Boaz made it easy for her to find lots of grain, and God urged Boaz to take her as his wife so that Ruth and her mother-in-law might have a place to dwell and a son to continue Ebimelech’s descendant. In the Gospel, Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees; not because of their teaching but of their hypocrisy when they do their good deeds.
1/ Reading I: “He shall be to you a restorer of life and a provider of your old age.”
1.1/ God loves the humble: When Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem, Naomi had a rich relative who belongs to the house of Ebimelech, Naomi’s husband; his name is Boaz.
(1) Ruth wanted to glean grain to find food for both of them: Since both of them are widows and had just returned from a foreign country, they don’t know how to earn their living, so Ruth, the Moabite, said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And Naomi said to her, “Go, my daughter.”So Ruth “set forth and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.”
Boaz, the owner of the field, said to Ruth when he met her, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my maidens. Let your eyes be upon the field which they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to molest you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”
(2) The reason for Boaz’s special treatment: When Ruth recognized Boaz’s special care for her, she bowed her head to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.”
1.2/ God arranged and blessed Ruth’s second marriage: The author is very brief on the relationship between Boaz and Ruth, “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.”
There are many details we need to pay attention in Ruth’s second marriage:
(1) Boaz is a relative with Ebimelech, Naomi’s husband: According to Jewish custom, he could marry Ruth to continue Ebimelech’s descendant.
(2) Some commentators said that either Naomi or Ruth intentionally chose Boaz’s field to glean grain. This is possible; but Boaz could decline to marry Ruth because he is rich and Ruth is so poor. Moreover, Ruth is also a foreigner.
(3) Whatever happened, God must be the One who wisely arranged for Ruth’s second marriage so they might have a person who cares for them in their poverty and Naomi’s old ages, especially for them to have a son to continue their linage. The women came and said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next of kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel!He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
(4) In God’s providence, this child belongs to the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David (cf. Mt 1:5). In today passage, the author reported, “They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
2/ Gospel: “Listen to their teaching but don’t do what they do.”
2.1/ The limited value of pure knowledge: A Vietnamese proverb says, “Talking can make people to think, but practicing can draw them to do it.” This proverb means that talking can show people the truth, but practicing what one talked can attract people to do the truth. The perfect leaders are the ones who know how to use both their words and deeds to motivate others to do what they want. However, if one can’t find such leaders, the leaders in words also have their limited effect as Jesus pointed out today: “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.”
2.2/ The scribes and the Pharisees’ bad habits: Jesus accused them of the followings:
(1) They are both lawmakers and judges to punish those who violate the law. They promulgated so many unnecessary laws, such as: washing hands before eating and paying tax for growing mint leaves, etc. Jesus accused them that “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.”
(2) They do good deeds in front of people: All the religious deeds they do, not because of God but for people to see and to praise them. Though wearing phylacteries and tassels during prayer are obligatory to remind them that they must continually remember that God is their only One (phylacteries, Exo 13:16, x/c Deut 6:8, 11:18; tassels: Num 15:37-41, Deut 22:12); but they expanded their phylacteries bigger and their tassels longer to attract people’s attention.
(3) They love places of honor at banquets and seats of honor in synagogues: At banquets, they expect the most important seats; for example, to seat on the right or on the left of the host or in the same table with important persons. In Jewish synagogues, the front seats are preserved for the elders and the important people. They want these seats to show people that they are important and for others to pay attention to what they wear and the things they do.
(4) They like to be greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation “Rabbi.” The scribes and the Pharisees want people to treat them as the primary citizens, more than parents of people. They explained that the parents of people are physical benefactors (giving them a body) while they are spiritual benefactor, and spiritual is more important than physical value.
Why did Jesus prevent his disciples to call other “Rabbi, father or leader?” Jesus intended to remind his disciple not to idolize anyone as their god, except God only. Jesus didn’t prohibit to call our earthly father as “father;” but don’t consider them as equal to God. Lastly, Jesus taught his disciples about the standard of God’s judging of value: “The greatest among you must be your servant.Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must sincerely love God and others. God always looks down and blesses those who wholeheartedly love and serve others.
– To effectively witness for God and others, our words must always be backed up with our deeds. We should avoid saying without doing.