“Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose hearts are the pathways to Zion” - Psalm 84:5
By Denise Trull
There have always been in this world souls who have not forgotten where they come from, in whose hearts are indelibly mapped out the pathway to Heaven. If you are blessed to know a soul like this, you are quite lucky. You can usually find them in kitchens at parties quietly rinsing the dishes, or humbly slipping a casserole between the screen door and the front door, so they don’t wake up the new baby or you. They listen quietly to your woes and offer wise and measured advice that immediately calms you down and even perhaps makes you laugh at yourself. They will readily join in with a quick admission of their own foibles to make you feel better.
These are the people who always manage to get their rosary prayed and slip unobtrusively into 6:30 am Mass with quiet grace and even quieter eyes. They never make a scene. You love sitting near them at the ladies' get togethers because they don’t need to chit chat or call attention to themselves. You can feel the peace floating from them into you. They reign like queens over their emotions and their tongues. They find something of interest in what others say -- any others, at any time. They move quietly. They speak seldom, but smile in easy contentment quite often, even when surrounded by a bevy of children swirling about them like a tornado surrounds its steady eye. They are content with the life God has given them to live, because they know where it leads. They have the map to Zion memorized within their hearts. If you ask, and only if you ask, they will show you how to get there. These are the peacemakers that Jesus talks about. Such a one was Ruth.
At the beginning of the book of Ruth, we meet Naomi who is a different sort altogether. She is a high strung, melancholic worrier. To be fair, she has every reason to be. She and her husband have to travel with their sons from Judah to Moab because of a famine in the land. Once settled there, her husband dies suddenly and she and her two boys mourn his passing in a strange land among a people with whom she has no history.
Her boys soon take wives from the Moabite people -- two lovely girls by all account, named Orpah and Ruth. Then, after ten peaceful years together, the unthinkable happens. Tragically, her two boys are taken from her. She is a widow with no sons to take care of her. She becomes the kind of woman Moses and Jesus spoke of who needed to be taken care of by the community as they had no one to support them. The Jewish people took widows and orphans quite seriously by religious mandate. But Naomi is among people who know nothing of that. She discovers that Judah has been visited by the mercy of God and has recovered from the famine at last. Naomi decides to return to her people, but there is this little glitch: her daughter-in-laws.
Finding both Orpah and Ruth one day, Naomi reveals her plan and gives them each permission to stay behind with their own people. Perhaps she knew by long experience how hard it would be to travel to a strange land -- she did not want that sorrow for them. They began to weep at the news, for they had grown to love Naomi quite dearly. Orpah was at last lovingly convinced to remain behind, though she consented with great sorrow. But Ruth was at a crossroads at that very moment.
Ruth began to see in her soul a growing pathway -- a pathway to Zion. It must have been an insistent call to pilgrimage, because she declared quietly but firmly to Naomi, “Wherever you go, I will go, your people will be my people and your God, my God.” Ruth not only insisted on going with Naomi. Ruth was going on a journey to Naomi’s God. Did Naomi marvel at the ways of God in this tall, beautiful girl’s quiet eyes? That He ordained Naomi’s life with its twists and turns, only to lead her to this foreign soil to bring home one of His own?
Naomi soon found Ruth to be that peaceful presence she needed so much in the worries ahead. Ruth's promise to stay with her, to take care of her, to make Naomi's people her own, must have been a warm blanket of reassurance around Naomi's sadness and anxiety. If you are an anxious person, you will know deep down how Naomi felt to have someone so calm, strong, and decisive holding her hand. The two women traveled back to Judah and settled down together, poor as they were, finding solace in each other’s company.
Ruth was quiet, but Ruth was not a shrinking violet. She was a resourceful planner who had ways of overcoming difficulties that would only make Naomi wring her hands and sigh. The difficulty now was getting food. It was the barley harvest, and there was a field near their home where the men would cut the grain. Afterwards, the poor were permitted to glean the grain that had fallen and been left behind. Ruth proposed to Naomi that she go and glean. Naomi gave her consent.
Ruth, though so unassuming and hidden, an outsider gleaning quietly and humbly in a corner of his field, caught the eye of the owner, Boaz one day. People like Ruth are mesmerizing to the right kind of heart -- a heart that also has an inner map to Zion and knows the ways of God.
Both Ruth and Boaz were kind and methodical. Both recognized in the other an other-worldly quality that revealed itself simply as a beautiful contentment with what providence had doled out to each. Boaz fell in love with Ruth just by watching her day after day. He loved her so much he soon felt a great need to protect her from harm. He showed her where the best grain was. He sat down and served her food and ate quietly next to her. Ruth fell in love with his service, his attention, his protection. Ruth and Boaz promised each other to be a companion upon the inner road they traveled together. If you are one like this, take heart. Ask Ruth and Boaz to help you find your beloved. It may be a long journey over many strange ways, but in the end you will find in each other, as they did, the road to Zion through your married love.
Ruth was Jesus's ancestor, so I like to think that in His humanity He received that gentle, beautiful quality from her and enriched it to perfection. I think there were times when he was exhausted or just needed food, or had had enough of scheming Pharisees and too much noise and banter -- times where perhaps an unassuming, gentle, faithful woman quietly and wordlessly brought him a plate and stooped to pour him a cup of water and then quietly slipped away. Perhaps he thought of Ruth then and was glad to be kin to such a soul. He rejoiced in the beauty that He had created, and was glad for all those pilgrim souls making their steady way to the Father, in whose hearts were the path to Zion.