Reflections for

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov 04, 2018

Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 146; (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Psalm 119:1-8;) Hebrews 9:11-14; Mark 12:28-34

On Art

Naomi Entreating Ruth and Orpah to Return to the Land of Moab, by William Blake

The English poet William Blake is almost as well known for his engravings and watercolors as he is for his poetry. In 1795 he produced this watercolor depicting the scene in the book of Ruth when Naomi has just informed her Moabite daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, that she is returning to her native land of Judah. She encourages each of them to return to their “mother’s home.” In response, Ruth and Orpah “wept aloud and said to her, ‘We will go back with you to your people.’” Blake has captured the pathos of the moment. Ruth clings to Naomi while Orpah turns in tears toward her Moabite home. Ruth explains her decision “Where you go, I will go . . .” Ruth’s words are often used in wedding ceremonies to express vows between spouses. In their biblical context, they express a loyalty that goes beyond family ties or national allegiance. “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”


Three poems

Naomi in famine
Ruth 1:1–2

First portions to my husband, then the boys.
I eat what’s left behind, grow willowy, more
like a girl than I ever was.

My clothes curtain, I think of cutting
the excess to sell, for what? There’s nothing
left in this town, we are the only harvest
to ripen white in the wind.

My husband says sometimes God allows
pain to cause us to move. I pack
our things.

The last cow to calf was three springs past,
and now I boil its bones to make broth.

Naomi’s sojourn
Ruth 1:1

The grain fled from our hands.
Harvest brought no yield.
Each day turned to us—empty faces,
empty faces, and our sons’ mouths
gaped wider. My fat of childbirth
negotiated to rib, our children’s bellies
bloat. I cut the oil by half and by half
til we are eating water, some dirt.
Hunger becomes the greater God;
it gnaws us like a bone. We leave
our home.

Ruth’s vow

What they say of you, they say of me, the girls
you were a girl with, the men you did not choose,
I will not choose. I will carry what you carry,
like a child, on my hip that has never born
a child, heavy as a child who will not follow
your voice. Your home built of sorrow will be
my sorrow, the wasp pressed against the inside
of the pane, my pane, the slackening of your skin,
loosened skin around the eyes, will be my loosening,
your hair gone colorless will be my own
lack of color. Your cup of bitter waters is my cup
of bitter waters and together we will drink it,
until the bowl has gone dry as a skull.


Revised Common Lectionary © 1992 the Consultation on Common Texts. Used by permission.