August 23, 2019 Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16,22 Matthew 22: 34-40
Years ago, in the 70s, a song and melody by the monks of Weston Priory was very popular. “Wherever You Go” was often used in parishes and in in prayer services among many seminarians. It is based on the beautiful story of Ruth and Naomi in today’s first reading. As a Passionist student at the time, I recall that the song and the scripture story taught me: “Be true to your heart and follow it.” In those early years, my experience of Passionist priests and brothers had revealed the importance of inclusion, community, prayer, reconciliation and of empowering others to use their gifts. I treasured those things. To me, Passionists spoke from the heart and I wanted to do the same.
Today, I don’t remember most of the words of those Passionists but their actions are still strong guiding stories for me as they continue to be for many other Passionist Associates and others. Like Ruth, the experience of true love has spoken deeply in our hearts and we want to follow. And so Passionist Associates attempt to live in the spirit of St. Paul of the Cross and Passionist spirituality, not simply to follow, but to be one in heart with the Passionist family.
Unfortunately, today we are hearing of too many “heartless” voices in the public square who seek to create walls and discord. “Dis-cord” – the breaking of ties, the cutting of the cord that holds things together. Sadly, this perspective seeks to break connections and we become less a people together.
In contrast to this we have today’s Gospel spoken from the heart of Jesus. It is a heart that leads to connections, to unity and peace. Jesus tells us that the whole law and the prophets (important elements of his peoples’ lives) depend on love … of God, of self and of the neighbor. I emphasize depend. It is love that can guide us to right living in all our relations. May these primary precepts of Jesus make a return to dominance for our culture! Like Ruth who out of love followed her heart, as we listen to Jesus may we speak her same words to him: “Wherever you go, I shall go; wherever you live, so shall I live; your people will be my people and your God will be my God too.”
Ernie Rivard is a Passionist Associate. He has served as Pastoral Assistant at two New England parishes and in the roles of administrator, associate retreat director and retreat director at Passionist retreat centers over twenty-three years. He is now retired from full-time ministry to spend more time with his family, golf, and reading & research into history, spirituality and contemporary Church issues. He continues to offer occasional retreats and days of reflection.