The story of Ruth is one of the most beautiful in the Bible. We hear about Bethlehem and about the family of David. We hear about the ties that bind, the ordinary, natural bonds of affection and care that mark Ruth's loyalty to Naomi. We hear of sadness and joy in family affairs, of illness and famine. We hear of Ruth who chooses to stay with her husband's family and in doing so becomes the great-grandmother of king David, and a direct ancestor of Jesus, the Christ, one of the women mentioned in his genealogy.
Ruth is not the only foreigner to show piety to the Lord, the God of Israel, and to the Lord's people. Piety is a virtue whereby we give due honour and respect to those who have nurtured and educated us, our parents in the first place, but also others who have been influential in our formation and growth. It is also a gift of the Holy Spirit because the kingdom of heaven is a place of true justice where indebtedness is acknowledged and gratitude is shown. Ruth becomes an example of this for us.
Sometimes people oppose justice and charity, as if justice were concerned with something less than charity, and charity were a kind of dispensation from the requirements of justice. But this is a serious misunderstanding, for charity is simply the full flowering of justice. God is righteous and holy. God is decent and affectionate, we might say, as Ruth is decent and affectionate. The law of charity which summarises the whole law, the first and greatest of the commandments, includes justice within itself and always meets its requirements. Charity is justice originating in the heart, expressed on the lips, and implemented in our actions.
The feminine aspect here, if we can speak like that, is to remember others and to think of others. We will easily think of our own: 'charity begins at home', we say. It is right and just. But Ruth gives us an example of one who leaves her own people and her father's house in order to honour the requirements of new bonds and relationships. Likewise in the kingdom of heaven, new bonds and relationships are established on the basis of a shared faith.
There are always those in danger of being forgotten, in danger of being left outside. Ruth reminds us that all are God's children and that the working out of God's plan for the world is for all men and women. Her gentle universalism anticipates the one who was to be born in her family many centuries later, whose gentle universalism makes him to be the source of all grace, the just judge, the heart of God burning with love for all people.