“Top dollar for bones,” read the sign in the gas station window. Bones are everywhere, here in the New Mexico desert, and tourists will pay big money for a perfect set of elk horns, or a large skull, or a clattering row of vertebrae.
I have loved bones ever since my fifth-grade class cleaned and bleached and sorted a pile our teacher found by the roadside. We identified each one, the teacher drilled holes and we wired jawbone to skull, pelvis to femur to tibia, and so on. My job was to cast missing teeth from plaster and fit them in the jaw. The calf that emerged, we hung from a metal rack. We were so proud of it! But never once did we think it would walk again.
2600 years ago, the Lord took Ezekiel to a valley littered with dry bones. (See Ezekiel 7:1-14.) They looked like a fallen army, picked over by vandals and birds of prey. “How dry they were!” Ezekiel said.
Israel, exiled to Babylon, had been saying the same thing. “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.” God’s answer to them was Ezekiel’s vision: desert-bleached, dried-up and scattered bones brought back together, made whole, covered again with flesh and filled with the spirit of life. “They came alive and stood upright, a vast army.”
“O my people!” said the Lord. “I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord. I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”
Each year at Pentecost we celebrate that God has done that very thing. Yes, he brought Israel “back to life” and re-settled them in the land he had promised them. But even more, he did something that earlier event just foreshadowed. He brought about the redemption our bodies (see Romans 8:22-27), knit us together into HIS body and filled us with his spirit of life.
As I remember that calf skeleton and read from Ezekiel 37, it strikes me how completely dependent we are on God for life of all kinds. I depend on God every day not only for existence but for vitality and freshness and creativity. Without him, I can’t fully be or do what I’m created for. The best I can do by my own power is a pale imitation of what is possible, powered by his spirit. It’s like that calf: even animated by some kind of machine, it would still be a robot. LIFE BELONGS TO GOD! And Jesus came that we might have his life “in abundance” (John 10:10). He gives until it overflows and reaches out to others (John 7:37-39).
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life!
Lord, send out your spirit; renew the face of the earth – and not just the earth, but me as well. Us as well. Sometimes we feel so dry, and we don’t have what it takes to bring life to the deserts that surround us. Renew your people and make us tributaries of your living water!
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This Pentecost weekend, set aside some time to meditate on the Scriptures the Church gives us for the occasion. Choose one and ask how it touches your life. Or read all the readings for the Vigil and/or Mass and find the connections between them. See how the Responsorial Psalm gathers up those threads of thought and points your heart and soul and mind to God.
Genesis 11:1-9 (the tower of Babel)
Or Exodus 19:3-8a, 16-20b (Moses on Mt. Sinai; recalled in the Jewish Pentecost)
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (the valley of dry bones)
Joel 3:1-5 (prophecy of the Holy Spirit)
Psalm 104 (Response: vs. 30)
Romans 8:22-27 (creation and we groan in wait for redemption)
John 7:37-39 (rivers of living water)
Acts 2:1-11 (Pentecost)
Psalm 104 (Response: vs. 30)
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 (manifestations of the Spirit for the Body of Christ)
John 20:19-23 (Jesus breathes into the Apostles the Holy Spirit)
Blessings on you as you read the Word!
© 2017 Sarah Christmyer