What is it that causes people to hope when all seems lost? Where do they find it? The Women of St. Kateri met virtually last night, and we talked about the story of Ruth. A famine came, and it took the lives of Ruth’s husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law. It left three women, Ruth, Orpah and Naomi, with nothing. They heard there might be food in the land where Naomi originally came, Bethlehem, so they start walking there. After great emotion, Orpah decides to go back to her mother’s house; Ruth and Naomi continue on. As a group of women sharing this story together now and in our world today, we grappled with the desperation of these three women and what could have led them to have hope. Especially Ruth, because Naomi had lived in Bethlehem before and knew people. Ruth left everything she knew behind to be with Naomi, saying the famous lines, “Do not plead with me to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you sleep, I will sleep. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me, and worse, if anything but death separates me from you,” (Ruth 1: 16-17). How is hope found in the darkness?
It seems what we can learn from this story is that hope can be found in courage, hope can be found in each other, and hope is always found in the Lord. Ruth and Naomi trudged onward from Moab to Bethlehem because they couldn’t stay in the famished land with no husbands (not a feminist thought, but it is how it was then). They had no choice but to move forward toward something and someone that might help them. Their courage proves fruitful, because they do find food, land and people that help them in the end. It is that courage (the root “cor”, meaning heart) that keeps them going.
Hope loves company. It is so hard to hope alone. Ruth and Naomi leaned on each other to get through. If one of them got discouraged, the other carried them both. When Naomi begged Ruth to go back home, she eventually stopped urging her, “for she saw she was determined to go with her,” (1:18). They were in this together.
Eventually Ruth marries Boaz who is a relative in her father-in-law’s family, and they have a son Obed who will be the grandfather of King David. Naomi rejoices, and the women around her say, “Blessed is the Lord who has not failed to provide you today with an heir!” (4:14). Our hope is in the Lord. Even when all seems defeated and lost.
In reflecting on all of this – and please take this time if you’re able – I doodled a picture of a bucket. We all have buckets in our hearts that the Lord pours hope into (faith). We have to be brave (courage) and hold our buckets out so we can catch it. Then, it is our job to pour a little into each other’s hearts too (company). Ruth and Naomi, through their courage, company and faith, had full buckets of hope that they were willing to share. May they strengthen us. May we hold out our buckets to the Lord, gather the hope and share it like they did. Naomi and Ruth, pray for us!