Throughout the Gospels, there is an interesting pattern that occurs with some regularity. High versus low. Inside versus outside. Public versus private. We hear Jesus chastising those who take the high places at the banquet only to find themselves replaced by those who take the low place. We hear him reference the tomb that is beautiful on the outside but full of decay on the inside. We hear the story of the widow’s mite that is more valuable than the rich person’s offering. Today he tells us, “The greatest among you must be your servant.”
Today’s readings share in this pattern. Jesus enjoins his followers to listen to the scribes and Pharisees, but do not act like they do, “For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen.”
From the first reading, Ruth has lived quite a different life than that of the scribes and Pharisees described by Jesus. Boaz is moved by how she has cared for others, leaving her own land and her own family. “Casting herself prostrate upon the ground, Ruth said to him, ‘Why should I, a foreigner, be favored with your notice?’ Boaz answered her: ‘I have had a complete account of what you have done for your mother-in-law after your husband’s death; you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know previously.’”
We live in a time of grandstanding and self-aggrandizement. Who’s richer or more powerful? Who’s a foreigner and who’s not? Who’s in and who’s out in Hollywood or Washington DC? The simple, quiet work of caring for our families, paying attention to our co-workers, and making our communities a little more peaceful may not garner much attention…except by Jesus. Living a life of discipleship does matter. We have to believe it does make a difference in our world…because it does.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and was the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.