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. I will lay sinews on 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 had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and 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, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”
I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.
And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Imagine the ground Ezekiel walked. There are bones spread across a flatland stretching in all directions. No one buried these bones. No one protected them from scavengers or thieves. They baked in the beating sun for months, maybe years, forgotten by all. These are the bones of Israel, the bones of faith.
At first, this reading seems an odd choice for a Marian feast, but underneath the eerie imagery, is a profound statement.
The grim details of Ezekiel’s vision aren’t as much about Israel as they are about God, about the unimaginable vastness of God’s love. For this God – this love God – will not just give the bones life, this God will give them his own life. Today’s celebration is not just about Mary, but it’s about us. It’s about how when our faith is an expanse of dry bones, God does more than send life. God reanimates us with God’s very self.
Take a moment to remember a time when God reawakened your faith, return to that grace, and offer a prayer of gratitude.
Lord, in the past when our faith felt dormant, we asked your Spirit to renew us. When you seemed distant, when our prayers felt neglected, when life felt so humdrum, we called out to you. You heard our prayers. Again we beseech you to increase our faith so we can bring your light to all.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team