World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Ruth

I wasn’t aware the WDMR (their acronym, not mine) has been a thing since 1914. That was a very interesting first year, as the last Sunday in September was two months after the Great War hostilities began.

Our archbishop has given parishes the option to celebrate the VNO Mass for Refugees and Exiles. The Lectionary options are offered at numbers 927 through 931, but I think this passage from the rarely-used book of Ruth illustrates the plight and motivation of at least one immigrant very well:

A reading from the book of Ruth 1:22; 2:2-3, 5-13

Naomi came back with her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth,
who accompanied her back from the plateau of Moab.
They arrived in Bethlehem
at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi,
“I would like to go and glean grain in the field
of anyone who will allow me.”
Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.”

So she went.
The field she entered to glean after the harvesters
happened to be the section belonging to Boaz,
of the clan of Elimelech.
Boaz asked the young man overseeing his harvesters,
“Whose young woman is this?”
The young man overseeing the harvesters answered,
“She is the young Moabite who came back with Naomi
from the plateau of Moab.
She said,
‘I would like to gather the gleanings
into sheaves after the harvesters.’

Ever since she came this morning
she has remained here until now,

with scarcely a moment’s rest.”

Boaz then spoke to Ruth,
“Listen, my daughter.
Do not go to glean in anyone else’s field;
you are not to leave here.
Stay here with my young women.
Watch to see which field is to be harvested,
and follow them.

Have I not commanded the young men to do you no harm?
When you are thirsty,
go and drink from the vessels
the young people have filled.”

Casting herself prostrate upon the ground, she said to him,
“Why should I, a foreigner, be favored with your attention?”

Boaz answered her:
“I have had a complete account of what you have done
for your mother-in-law after your husband’s death;
you have left your father and your mother
and the land of your birth,
and have come to a people whom previously you did not know.
May the LORD reward what you have done!
May you receive a full reward from the LORD, the God of Israel,
under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

She said, “May I prove worthy of your favor, my lord.
You have comforted me.
You have spoken to the heart of your servant—
and I am not even one of your servants!”

The Word of the Lord

The more personal the story of the immigrant or refugee becomes, the harder the heart must be to turn away people in need. I am sure some people inclined to be generous with incoming persons are asking of the Texas situation, why now? Crises of politics, economics, natural disasters and such don’t wait for the decks to be cleared from a pandemic or a time of political worry and upheaval. People are arriving. Do we do as it might be convenient? Or do we follow a Judeo-Christian tradition of generosity?

Image credit: French painter James Tissot.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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