Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)
Scripture Readings*: Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:11-14; Mark 12:28-34
When a person marries, it is a common understanding that you do not just marry your bride or groom: You marry their family as well. When we take God for our Father, we take His people for our people; even though they may be poor and despised.
Ruth understands: To forsake the family of God and return to the “people of Moab” will ultimately sever communion with God.
Under the old covenant, a provision to remove external pollution (all that defiled a person) was available through animal sacrifices and other familiar rituals (9:6-10). However, under the new covenant, Jesus freely surrendered His life to God as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Unlike the old covenant that offered temporary relief, Jesus’ sacrifice not only cleanses us from all sin, His perfect work purifies our conscience from guilt, which inspires holy living.
The Sadducees did not believe in the “afterlife” (12:18-23). However, attempting to catch Jesus off guard, they ask a hypothetical question regarding life after death. Jesus points out that their root problem is ignorance of Scripture and of God’s power (12:24-27). Stumped by Jesus’ response, a scribe then asks Jesus: What laws are the most important ones to keep.
Jesus brilliantly and precisely cuts through all of the confusion surrounding the magnitude of details associated with “law-keeping.” He condenses it to two things: Love God and love others.
Live So Others May Learn
Some say, we tend to model what we observe. Children notice the behavior of adults and – over time – reflect similar conduct. Today’s Scriptures reveal adults also learn through observation.
Naomi’s example compels Ruth to embrace a different way of living. For Ruth, the norm of a patriarchal society requires a widow – upon the death of her husband – to rely upon the mercy of her husband’s family. However, Ruth’s observation of her mother-in-law’s love (and the God she loved), constrains her to abandon her known security. Because of her courageous decision, Ruth finds her place among God’s people and the lineage of Christ.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that we are to love God and love others. Do we live in a way that others are intrigued and compelled to know our God? Like Naomi, our love of God becomes an irresistible influence for others to find their place among God’s people.
Prayer for Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost – Merciful God, gift to me Your Holy Spirit; empower me to live a life pleasing to You and a beacon to others; through Jesus Christ, Amen.
*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B