Daily Reflection
August 20th, 2004
John P. Schlegel, S.J.
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Memorial of St. Bernard, abbot and doctor
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalms 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Matthew 22:34-40

Our new students arrive this weekend.  They come from across the nation and across the globe.  They come with all the joy and fear, with all the enthusiasm and anticipation, requisite with the beginning of a great adventure.  The challenges and opportunities will be many; some will succeed and some will not.  However, we do not know the rest of the story.

These students are not unlike Ezekiel when the Lord sat him down in a field filled with bones.  What were these bones to him; what was the Lord expecting him to do with them?  Anticipation, fear, confusion, and uncertainty engulfed the prophet when the Lord said to him: “Son of man, can these bones live?”  How was Ezekiel to know if they could be resuscitated?  However, he was comfortable enough in the Lord’s presence to respond, “Oh, Lord God, you know.”  That was the right answer!

God had taken the spirit, the breath, out of them because of their sinfulness and infidelity to their covenant God.  The same God who “will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.”

All of us, I suspect, have had the breath knocked out of us by life altering events, by relationships, by dysfunctional families, by attitudes in the workplace, by the life-death cycle that is our lot.  We have been breathless, we have been spiritless, and we have been spiritually dry.

At those times, the only source of resuscitation is God.  God will give us his spirit.  “I will put my breath within you that you may come (spiritually) alive and you will know that I am the Lord.”  The Lord, however, will not do this gratuitously.  Our God has expectations of us who are to live with His spirit, animated by the very breath of God.

The bones in the valley were the bones of those who forgot the greatest and first commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  This commandment was at the heart of the Old Testament covenant people.  Adherence to the “shama” was the essence of Israel as a nation and as individual believers.  To not follow it was a breach of the covenant.  The results of such infidelity were scattered across the valley of bones.

So it remains for us Christians today as it comes to us from the person of Jesus.

When we are spiritually dry, breathless and spiritless maybe, it is because we, too, have forgotten this expectation.  That a loving and giving God is to be loved, totally loved with our heart, soul and mind and that we are to love others—even the instigators of our breathlessness—with the same love we love God.  Now that is cause to pause, to panic, to be apprehensive.  It is also cause for new beginnings, new adventures and new relationships.

Like our eager students, we do not know the end of the story.  We do not know what profound transformation and bounteous opportunities open before us when we truly love God with our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole mind as well as loving others as we love ourselves.  No harm in trying, it might be fun as well as spiritually life giving.

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