by Fr. Tommy Lane
What desolation and despair Israel felt in Babylon. They were the chosen people, they were to be an example to all the nations, but in 587 B.C. all changed as Jerusalem finally fell and its citizens fled, or were captured and taken to Babylon. Exiled in Babylon they were saying, as we heard in the reading from Ezekiel, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are gone.” (Ezek 37:11) How could this happen? Why did God allow this? Six times the Old Testament tells us it was their sins that brought the Exile in Babylon on the Jews (1 Chron 9:1; 2 Chron 36:14-16; Neh 1:6-7; Jer 25:8-11; 2 Kings 21:10-15, 23:26-27.) Before the Exile God had raised up prophets to call Israel back to faithfulness to the covenant but to no avail. Ezekiel’s ministry continued during the Exile and in today’s passage about his famous vision of bones coming to life he received a message of hope and encouragement from God in a time of hopelessness.
This vision which Ezekiel received was not only for his time. It is for all times, for us now. It appeals to us because in this vision God teaches us he can restore us too when we are in the depths. It is the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, that brings about this restoration, that gives this new life. How can we receive the Holy Spirit to raise us up when we need the Spirit? Ezekiel will not come and prophecy over us.
We know we have received the Spirit during the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. But just as Israel’s sin brought her into Exile our sin separates us from God. We are restored again in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in John 20:21 Jesus says to the apostles,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we are raised to life.
Many times in the Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit is given through prayer. One example is Paul receiving the Holy Spirit when being prayed over by Ananias who laid hands on him. Ananias said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. (Acts 9:17-18)
The Word of God restores us because in the Word of God we see who we really are in God’s eyes. 2 Tim 3:16 says, “All scripture is θεόπνευστος” i.e. God-breathed. We normally translate that as “inspired.” “All scripture is θεόπνευστος and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The Word of God is a healing remedy.
When Mary visited Elizabeth, John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). If ever we feel like dry bones let us go to Mary. She is the Ark of the Covenant carrying Jesus to us to renew us and lift us up.
The grace of God has given us many means of receiving the Holy Spirit and being renewed and uplifted. Come Holy Spirit and breathe into us. I conclude with a prayer which I have adapted from Ephesians 3:14-19
May the Father grant you…to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2006