Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Valley of Dry Bones and the Promise of the Resurrection

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Happy Easter season to all! It seems that the Lenten season passed like a slow moving shadow in the night for me, with all of its opportunities for growth and the resultant groanings from within me as God rearranged my interior furniture and continued to melt away the dross clinging to my heart. And so it continues.  One image that the Holy Spirit gifted me with was that of the Valley of Dry Bones as found in Ezekiel, chapter 27: 1-14.  

As a refresher, this dramatic imagery and subsequent prophesy is recounted 

as follows,
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The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley;[a] it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath[b] to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling,[c] and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LordI have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
At first glance, this might seem a bit somber and lacking in Easter joy. It doesn't get more empty and desolate then meditating on a valley of dry bones. It seems to denote death.  But as we move forward in reading Our Lord's promise made to the Jewish people through His prophet Ezekiel, He reveals his intention to grant new life and beginnings through the breath of the Holy Spirit.   With His power and gift of spiritual and physical life, He breathes upon these tired bones and restores Israel, His chosen people who were all but lost.  He refashions and shapes them into His children once again and renews His promise to give them their own land and inheritance.  "And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh" [Ez 11:19].
This image and reading has stayed with me these past two weeks. As Jesus prepared for His passion and death, He told His disciples, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."  As St. John the Evangelist tells us.  "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away." The one who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Then he said, "Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true." He said to me, "They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. [Rev: 21: 3-6]
By delivering Himself up to His enemies and becoming the suffering servant of all of humanity for past, present, and future generations as prophesied by Isaiah, He was able to redeem our sinfulness and give us the opportunity to be transformed into a new creation and to live by his law of love for God, our neighbors, and our enemies alike. He was able to unify all things in Himself and within His wounds, in order that we can all be one, as He and the Father are one [John 17:22].
On the Road to Emmaus, the disciples are rapt with attentiveness as Jesus explains all of salvation history and how all happenings from Moses to His own death had to happen. Although they did not yet recognize Him, we are told that their hearts were burning as they heard these truths stir within them and as the hidden Jesus prepared them for His Resurrected presence in the 'breaking of the bread'.  This recitation of salvation was pointing to the Resurrection as a fulfillment of all that God had revealed through the Jewish prophets. It also portended His eventual Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  
The reviving of the dead, dry bones of humanity deadened from sin had to be united with Our Savior's human body and divine nature, in order to triumph over the grave.  The story of the Valley of Dry Bones is a foreshadowing of the hope of the Resurrection and new life that can only be found through Christ Jesus and the breath of the Holy Spirit. 
Let us remember that even when we are seemingly in the Valley of Death or Dry Bones, that beauty can and does come from the silent aridity and simplicity of the interior desert landscape of our souls. God promises abundance and He delivers it, if the eyes of our hearts are open to see it, receive it, and embrace it.  Let us be ready to recognize His presence, His grace, His gifts whether we be gathered at the empty tomb, on our own personal road to Emmaus, or within the daily workings of our everyday lives. Amen. 
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