Laura Bernardini is director of coverage in CNN's Washington Bureau. The views expressed in this column belong to Bernardini.
A Catholic reads the Bible, Week 13: Rooting for Ruth
My family is very close.
I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have grown up with my parents and a great brother and sister, who in turn have expanded our happy circle with lovely in-laws. And though I'm not married, I have dated men with wonderful families.
Why am I mentioning this?
Reading through the Bible, I have been looking for a connection to its stories, its morals and its characters. As loyal readers have probably noticed, I end some readings with bafflement and a lack of understanding of God. I have been searching for that moment when it all becomes clear, and at times I've grown concerned that the moment would never arrive.
Readers have shared their moments of clarity, leaving me a bit envious. (And yes, I think that violates one of the 613 commandments.)
But this week the Book of Ruth has finally provided one of those moments.
Its four simple pages, detailing devotion and familial love, spoke clearly to me from across the ages.
If I hadn't read that story, I am not sure what I would have written this week. Ruth is proceeded by Judges. That book is a bloody mess.
I know that Judges is about the 12 leaders of the Israelites who bring their wanton people back to God each time they stray. But, seriously, how many times do you need to read about them doubting the Lord and worshiping false idols? Even the story of Samson didn't really interest me.
Thank goodness for Ruth.
Ruth was a Moabite who married Naomi's Israelite son. As I had read in Judges, that was a union of two different groups and unusual.
When Ruth's husband dies, rather than return to her people, she stays with her mother-in-law and helps her return to her family.
"Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go... your people shall be my people and your God my God."
In this way, Ruth takes care of her mother-in-law, setting aside her own comfort to make sure her family member's needs are taken care of. That's devotion I can respect.
Ruth ends up remarrying, and gives birth to Obed -- great-grandfather to David. That's right, one of Judaism's most famous leaders would not have been around if not for Ruth and her devotion to her mother-in-law.
Ruth's chapter appears to be righting the course for the Israelites -- unlike Judges, it teaches its morality by hearth-fire, not hellfire.
In just four pages, I got the message. I understand that devotion to family. I thought if the same thing had happened to me, I would have taken the same actions.
That's what I had expected to have felt earlier in my journey with the Bible. I guess I can't complain: after all, the Israelites wandered the dessert for 40 years. It's only been 13 weeks for me.
Now on to the Book of Samuel.