Persons, places and things: ‘Love that changes lives’


By Barb Arland-Fye

One of my favorite readings in the Old Testament is the story of Ruth, who leaves everything behind to accompany her mother-in-law Naomi to her homeland. Both women are widows, chosen by God to be companions on the journey.


Naomi appreciates the sacrifice Ruth is making but encourages her to go back with her sister-in-law to their people and their god. Ruth responds: “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22).

Ruth’s love for Naomi inspires me to consider my call to love family members, friends and even strangers. I savored the story again as the first reading during daily Mass Aug. 25, which I attended with my husband Steve at Our Lady of the River Catholic Church in LeClaire. The Gospel reading from Matthew reinforced our call as Christians to love:


“… ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments’” (Mt 22:34-40).

Both Scriptures spoke to me of agape, or self-giving love committed to the well-being of others. Our pastor, Father Apo Mpanda, reinforced that message in his homily:

“To love God and one another is fundamental to our Christian identity. Today’s reading from Ruth shows us the awesome power of following these commandments. Even after Ruth’s husband died, she made a commitment to stay with her mother-in-law. Ruth and her husband didn’t have any children. Once her husband died, she did not have any ties to Naomi. They were not from the same place, the same people or the same religion. But she chose to cling to Naomi and travel with her to her homeland where she would be a foreigner. She promised to join Naomi’s family, becoming a member of her people and worshiping her God. This is the type of love that changes lives. This love can transform the world.”

Meeting with my Emmaus group later that day via Zoom, I brought up my appreciation for Ruth and Naomi’s story and my experience at Mass that morning. One of our Emmaus group members also appreciates that story but she offered a different take on it. For her, the story epitomizes romantic love between husband and wife. How did I miss that interpretation of the story? I wondered aloud.

Francesca told me she grew up listening to the hymn, “Song of Ruth (Wherever You Go),” written by then-Benedictine monk Gregory Norbet. She emailed our group a link to the song on YouTube, which I listened to later. I understood how she developed her appreciation for the reading from Ruth. The lyrics, particularly the concluding stanza, seem to imply the commitment to lifelong marriage.

“This hymn is about companionship in faith,” the website states. “Many couples have found that the words are appropriate for marriage, so the song is also popular at weddings” (https://tinyurl. com/4u4maj4d).

My appreciation for the story of Ruth and Naomi grows as I reflect on “companionship in faith” and its many facets, like the facets on the diamond in my wedding ring.

(Contact Barb

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