Can these bones live?

Ruach: stained glass inspired by Ezekiel 37; source

Homily for Pentecost Sunday
(Scriptures for this homily: Ezekiel, Romans and John)

Audio for homily

Ezekiel invites us to use our imagination here:
to picture this desert plain covered with bones,
with the dry bones of a vanquished army.
Ezekiel is preaching to a defeated, dispirited Israel:
Jerusalem has been destroyed and the temple along with it.
All that’s left are dry bones,
the skeletons of yesterday’s glory and promise,
yesterday’s security and hope.

It’s not a pretty picture.

But if we’re to come to some understanding of Ezekiel’s message,
we going to need to find the courage, perhaps to pray for the courage,
to look at the plains of our own lives, littered
with the lost glory, promise, security and hope of our yesterdays.

• We might look at the Catholic Church,
dispirited by crisis, many of our temples closed and sold;
where once we found security and hope in the Church,
now, too often, we find the dry bones of disappointment and mistrust.

• We might look to a family’s plans crushed by a job loss,
leaving bare bones bank accounts unable to cover the bills.

• We might look to relationships beset by problems,
leaving us thirsty for the sweet waters
of a well we fear has gone dry.

• We might look to the desert of our personal failures
and the burdens of yesterday’s glory and promise wasted,
spent, bone dry under a sun no shade relieves.

• We can look to the dry bones of
cherished hopes - dashed;
dreams - not come true;
plans - scuttled by hard times
and the hopelessness of wondering
why… why not... what if...

It wasn’t a pretty picture for Israel
and it might not be a pretty picture for us, either.
But just as the Lord didn’t leave Ezekiel or Israel in the desert,
neither does he abandon us.

The Lord invites us to look beyond the dry bones,
to hope beyond our hopelessness.

Remember what we read from St. Paul:
We don't hope for what we already see:
we hope for what we don't yet see...  

But often, the hard times we do see
blind us and cut off hope of what's beyond our line of sight.

The Lord shows Ezekiel the bones in the desert
and asks him a hard question,
“Can these bones come to life?”
When the Lord asks us that question,
does our hopelessness keep us from seeing,
keep us from believing what is yet to be?

The Lord then tells Ezekiel to prophesy,
that is to speak to the dry bones,
to speak to his own hopelessness and to say,
“I believe, with the help of God, that there will be new life here,
right here where it seems all hope is gone,
there will be something more.
With God’s help, I will hope for what I can’t see – yet."

God’s Spirit will give new skin and muscle and breath:
to the dry bones of the Church – integrity born of reform;
to failed plans and dreams – new beginnings;
to broken relationships – mending and healing;
to hearts sick with sin – a slate wiped clean with mercy;
and even to the dead – new life beyond the grave and its bones.

The question for us in Ezekiel is this:
do I believe that God is greater than my losses?
that God is stronger than my weakness
that God is more faithful than my hopelessness?

Do I believe that God can accomplish in me what I, so many times,
have failed to achieve on my own?

Do I believe that with God's help:
what I can't see yet will come to be?
that from the dry bones of hopelessness
God will fashion life for me?

In Ezekiel,
the spirit brings new life to the dry bones at the prophet’s feet.
In St. Paul, the groaning in our gut is the Spirit
laboring to bring forth life we hadn't dared to hope for.
In the gospel,
the Spirit breathes mercy into the hearts of apostles who
had betrayed and abandoned Jesus.

On this Pentecost Sunday, this same Spirit offers us courage
to face our dry bones and to hope beyond our dry bones,
to hope for what we can’t yet see,
and for what we desire and for what we believe and pray
God can and will do in our lives.

The power of the Spirit of the Risen Christ
gives the spiritual skin and sinew of the Body and Blood of Christ
to our gifts of bread and wine laid on this table in the Eucharist.

As we receive these gifts,
let’s pray for the courage to face our own dry bones
and for the hope to see what the Lord will make of them.

For so the Lord has promised --
and he will do it.


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1 comment:

  1. an apt homily for both Pentecost and Memorial Day.
    Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us!


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