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Colleen DulleAugust 25, 2023
A Mass for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults takes place at St. Pius V Church in Providence, R.I., Nov. 14, 2020. (CNS photo/Stew Milne via Rhode Island Catholic)

A Reflection for Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Find today’s readings here.

“Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge,
your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”

A few years ago, I volunteered as a “welcomer” for RCIA classes at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York, which were taught by former America managing editor Robert Collins, S.J. We “welcomers” were Catholics who accompanied the candidates and catechumens in their study and discernment and were available to be their godparents or confirmation sponsors if they did not already have someone in mind.

Many of the candidates and catechumens were in RCIA because they were marrying a Catholic and wanted to have a Catholic wedding. I admit I had been skeptical about the idea of converting to Catholicism for a spouse: It seemed to me just one of many unnecessary hoops that the church requires engaged couples to jump through to have a church wedding, and one that might encourage people to convert halfheartedly just to “check a box.”

In Father Collins’ class, though, I was proven wrong. Even if a person had come into the class halfheartedly, it was clear after just the first week how God was working in each person, drawing them closer to the church and to himself. In one of our first exercises together, Father Collins had us all read a selection of Jesus’ parables and interpret them. As a cradle Catholic, I’d heard the traditional interpretations hundreds of times before, but some of the candidates never had, and they drew out lessons from the readings that I never would have thought of. Over the weeks, they spoke about their own relationships with God and the things that were drawing them to the church. It was never just “to check a box.” It was a desire for community, an attraction to Catholic values. In one case, it was a professional cellist who had played a number of concerts in Catholic churches and was captivated by their beauty; she wanted to learn more about what inspired the magnificent art, architecture and music she encountered.

Even if a person had come into the class halfheartedly, it was clear after just the first week how God was working in each person, drawing them closer to the church and to himself.

I think about those couples preparing for marriage when I read today’s exchange between Ruth and Naomi from the book of Ruth. Naomi has been living on the plateau of Moab with her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. When the famine that originally drove Naomi to Moab from her birthplace in Bethlehem ends, she decides to return to Bethlehem to live out the rest of her days. Orpah decides to stay in Moab, but Ruth says she will follow Naomi, saying “Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” This is no halfhearted statement: Out of love for her mother-in-law, Ruth will join a new community and enter into a relationship of love with Naomi’s God, one that will lead to her becoming a prophet whose words we read centuries later.

Ruth’s twofold love for another person and for God is echoed in today’s Gospel when Jesus answers the Sadducees’ question about the greatest commandment by saying that there are two: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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