May 15, 2024, 6:00 AM

Franciscan Fractals: “Dry Bones”

Contemplating today’s culture with the wisdom of Jesus and St. Francis.

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. Ezekiel 37:1-5

One of the Hebrew readings regularly associated with Pentecost, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, comes from the Book of Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel describes a vision of God breathing new life into dry human bones lying scattered on the floor of a valley.  Dry bones eventually gather life and create new bodies complete with muscle, flesh, and skin.  These words gave hope and sustenance to the people of Israel as they languished in Babylonian captivity, and waited for new life as a people of God. 

This passage also allows for a deeper understanding of dry bones within our own lives. The Holy Spirit was working in Israel centuries before Pentecost. And, she is still living and breathing in us! The Spirit found in Ezekiel and Pentecost is the same one that moved upon the face of the waters before creation and who became our sculptor.

This citing of the power of the Holy Spirit repeatedly throughout Scripture cannot simply be limited to the intellect. The Holy Spirit does not work by abstraction, but instead by action. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is always personally active. We are thus left to ponder, “How do you and I breathe new life into our dry bones?”

The following reflection by an anonymous writer in Southern Ireland gives us an example of breathing life into “dry bones.”

The Autumn Years

Let them grow with the same love that they let you grow ...

let them speak and tell repeated stories with the same patience and interest that they heard yours as a child...

let them overcome, like so many times when they let you win...

let them enjoy their friends. just as they let you enjoy yours.

  1. them enjoy the talks with their grandchildren, because they see you in them...

let them enjoy living among the objects that have accompanied them for so long, because they suffer when they feel that you tear pieces of this life away ...

let them be wrong, like so many times you have been wrong and they didn’t embarrass you by correcting you...

Let them live and try to make them happy, on the last stretch of the path they have left to go.

Give them your hand, just like they gave you their hand, when you started on your path!

Thus says the Lord, “Even into these bones will I breathe, and you shall live.”

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John