REFLECTION: Dry bones…

 

Dry bones… dry, dry bones.  What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read these words?  My thoughts rest on a sun bleached bovine skull and its sun baked bones in a scorching desert.

Ezekiel, an Old Testament Prophet, had a vision.  He wrote, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones.  And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and behold, they were very dry.”    God asks him, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  God then tells him, “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:  Behold, I will cause breath 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.”  Ezekiel obeys and as he prophesies to these bones, he hears rattling sounds.  As he opens his eyes hesitantly and peers through half-shut lids, he sees the bones coming together!  Now, looking on with excitement, he notices that sinews and flesh have come on them and skin now covers them!  God then asks Ezekiel to “prophesy to the spirit” and “the spirit comes into them, and they live and stand upon their feet.” God then says, “Son of man, these bones are the bones of the whole of Israel.  Behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost.” Ezekiel 37: 1-11

Was there a time when you felt so beaten, every ounce of your spirit sucked up and your bones had become oh so dry?  In his first chapter of “Waking the Dead”, author John Eldredge writes…   ”Twenty clear days a year – that sounds about like my life.  I think I see what’s really going on about that often.  The rest of the time it feels like fog.”  “Why have things gone the way they have?  Where was God in all that? “  “Oh, I’d love to wake each morning knowing exactly who I am and where God is taking me.” “ It’s awesome when I do see.  But for most of us, life seems more like driving along with a dirty windshield and then turning into the sun.  I can sort of make out the shapes ahead, and I think the light is green.” Footnote 1

“Let’s start with why life is so dang hard.” “ Yes, we have our faith.  But even there – maybe especially there – it all seems to fall rather short of the promise.  There’s talk of freedom and abundant life, of peace like a river and joy unspeakable, but we see precious little of it, to be honest.”  Footnote 1

Can you relate to that?  Many barely make it, merely surviving one moment at a time!  “We are losing – or we have already lost – heart.  That glorious, resilient image of God in us is fading, fading, fading away.” Footnote 2

What has happened?  Didn’t Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth and the life”?  John 14:6 Jesus said that He would show us the way to life, but why are many Christians living miserable lives?  Jesus didn’t come down from Heaven to endure unbearable torment so we would continue to live miserably here on earth, only to live happily in Heaven… after we die.  During his Lenten mission earlier this year, Fr. Emmerich said, “Every Christian’s resurrection takes place HERE (earth) and not in Heaven.  Do you get that?  DO YOU GET THAT?  I wonder how many really do?

During the latter part of Lent, one of the Old Testament Scripture reading was “…You shall know that I am Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people…  I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT WITHIN YOU AND YOU SHALL LIVE … then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord.”  Ezekiel 37:13-14   This, in fact, is the tail end of Ezekiel’s vision.

Our graves are opened, God has given us the power to rise from our graves, but have we gotten up?  Barely!  Even before we are able to get out of bed, we are already bombarded.  Thoughts of fear, anger, and retaliation fill our minds and even before the bed covers are thrown off our bodies, we are already exhausted and beaten.

Victim.  Recognize that word?  I didn’t realize I had identified with that “name” for the longest while until I heard one of Neale Lazano’s CD.  He said, “You are NOT a victim.  That is NOT your name.”  That was definitely not my name, but I had identified with it for such a long, long time.  Unknowingly, I had accepted that title in my younger years and I had identified with it and lived accordingly.

Was I unwittingly lured to it?  Yes.  My undiagnosed Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity in my childhood years had made me uncontrollable and the excessive discipline I received because of it shaped my thoughts. The inability to comprehend and the many hours left alone to lick my wounds created the perfect scenario.  The devil flung multiple lies my way, telling me there was nothing in me that deserved being loved; my behaviour would always be unacceptable and I deserved to be punished repeatedly…  These were lies but no one was around to tell me otherwise and so, as the thoughts came, I accepted them as my truth.

But it doesn’t happen only to the young.  Many teens and adults go through incomprehensible agonies.  An unwelcomed incident happens within the family circle.  Already too pre-occupied with their individual busy schedules, the couple angrily battle each other and/or their children.  Their inability to communicate healthily and effectively lead to more unresolved grievances and unmet needs.   They accumulate and accumulate… unresolved, deeply buried, often forgotten.  Although hidden, the  potency of each pain is still as strong as when it was first experienced and they leak and seep up to the surface, often summoned by similar experiences.  Had they been dealt with when they first occurred, they would have been easier to handle, but now, they’ve accumulated and amalgamated with many others.  Now they have become too strong.  The teens and even their parents can’t figure it out.  The incidents happened so long ago and now, there are too many of them.  Unable to identify and alleviate the cause of their pain, they attempt to run away, but running doesn’t help.  Their very being follows wherever they go… they cannot detach.  Eventually, alcohol and drugs come into the picture in attempt to numb the pain and perhaps bring about a momentary bliss.  While the physical torment goes on, the adversaries of the evil one have kept busy, invisibly dropping one lie after another.  Weakened and isolated, the individual accepts each lie until all hope is gone and he/she is no longer able to rise, even from an opened grave.

John Eldredge continues, “WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON HERE?  Good grief – life is brutal.  Day after day it hammers us, till we lose sight of what God intends toward us, and we haven’t the foggiest idea why the things that are happening to us ARE happening to us.”  Elridge clearly spells it out…  “WE ARE AT WAR”.  At war?  “No we’re not!  We’re not living in a war torn country.” one might argue.  But what many fail to grasp is that our battle is not of this world!

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12

“Hogwash!” one might say.   Really?  That’s what the devil and his adversaries would like everyone to think.  The less we are aware that the battle is taking place, the less we will be on defense.

Had our opponents been visible, would our fight be more active or would we merely cowl in corners, flailing our arms in attempt to protect ourselves?  On September 11th, the “enemy” was visible.  They came in hijacked planes with hundreds of loved ones subjected to their merciless scheme.  But America was not prepared and hundreds upon hundreds of innocent lives perished.  The world of terrorism acknowledged their hand in the event and the world, fully aware of the threat they imposed, united against them.

But what if there was an invisible cloak?  What if the world of terrorism didn’t declare their involvement in the event?  Wouldn’t this be similar to the incident of the Malaysian flight that disappeared?  While the memory lasted, the world was left at a loss, wondering what they could do to prevent a future catastrophe.

These incidents happened en-masse, but the battle we are discussing takes place individually, in our own homes…  in our own lives… in our own minds.  No one is spared.  From the time a child is able to distinguish right from wrong, the attack begins.  More often than not, the attacks are cloaked because we don’t recognize them for what they are.  We often pass them off as our own horrid thoughts.  Many are tormented but we don’t know how to stop them.

We have been warned…  “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8  But how many have taken heed?  Not many.  What about you?   Not familiar with God’s Word?   Fail to make time to open your Bible and/or perhaps glazing over when Scripture is read during Mass?

We have been warned… ”my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”  Hosea 4:6

“…Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands.  Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways.  The way of peace they know not, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked, no one who goes in them knows peace.  Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we look for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.  We grope for the wall like the blind, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigour we are like dead men.  We all growl like bears, we moan and moan like doves; we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.  For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us…” Isaiah 59: 6-11

Although the previous Scripture from Isaiah was written in 700 B.C., it accurately describes our worldly situation today.  What is going on?  “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness.  No one enters suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.”  Isaiah 49:1-4

But wasn’t that in the past before Jesus came to earth?  Aren’t we now at the time after the coming of Jesus Christ?  Isn’t the world filled with more Christians today?

Is it?

We have many who refer to themselves as Christians, but are they really?  Christianity is not merely a name, it is a lifestyle.  It is knowing and acknowledging that I am a sinner and realizing and believing that through the death and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ, my sins are forgiven and I immediately become a child of God.  But there’s more!  It also means that by God’s grace, I am now given the POWER, through the Holy Spirit, to CHOOSE to turn away from my wicked ways and the power to CHOOSE to follow God’s way.

The power is given, but unfortunately, more often than not, the choice taken is away from God…

A majority of Catholics have been baptized into God’s family as infants.  Fr. Hampsh explains that we have been initiated into God’s family by the Sacrament of Baptism, but he clearly explains that it doesn’t and it cannot end there.  As we grow, our parents and Catechism teachers bring us to a greater understanding and love for God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and eventually, we need to CHOOSE to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus.  It is a relationship with the meeting of two hearts.

Christianity is not blind faith; it is a living and growing relationship with the LIVING God.  No one can make that choice for us.  Many would like to and unfortunately, some have even attempted to force that choice on others, but it really is a free willed choice that each one has to make.

Have you been left behind along the way?  Many have.  It is evident by the fact that many Christians are barely living.  And yet Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10  Since the fall of Adam and Eve, the devil has continued to steal the joy of God’s children and apparently, he has been successful in killing and destroying so many lives.  But wait!  Jesus came down to planet Earth to bring God’s children back to Him.  Jesus clearly mentions that He came so that we would have life and within the same sentence, He clarifies that He is not talking about merely living like a bird imprisoned within a cage, but living an abundant life!

Before He returned to the Father in Heaven, Jesus told his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit.  But why? He knew they needed the supernatural strength of the very One, the Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead.  “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  Luke 24:49 “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  John 14:26

Many of us, who have been baptized as infants, don’t realize that as we were adopted into God’s family, we were simultaneously given the Holy Spirit to guide us and to empower us to live victoriously!  So what went wrong?  Let’s start with… How is your friendship with God?  Do you  really know God, or do you merely know of him?

When you finally meet Him at the gates of Heaven, how would you respond when God asks why you didn’t call on His name and take His hand during your times of turmoil, but instead, you blamed Him and cursed Him.  Convicted?  That’s all He wants of you.  He wants each of us to realize that we continue to fall and we truly need His help to battle the cunning adversary.  He wants us to realize that He has provided the ways of escape through His Word and He has given us the power through the Holy Spirit.

So how are we going to respond?  With another “ho-hum”?

Father God, thank You for sending Jesus down to planet earth to bridge us back to You.  Father, forgive us for our free-willed choice of dismissing and rejecting Your teachings and ways.  Father, open our spiritual eyes so we can see that You forgive when we ask for Your pardon and help us take an active part in our spiritual well-being.  Father, help us see that our eternal future depends on the choices we make.  And Lord, for those who have climbed the spiritual ladder, help each see that the temptations of the enemy becomes more subtle and that they are prone to spiritual pride.  We need You Lord and we ask that You will eventually bring us back Home to You when our time on earth is over.  In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – July 13, 2014

p.s.
– Aneel Aranha’s online teaching “The Armor of God”
(http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/aneelaranha/armorofgod/introduction.asp is also exceptional.  Do consider learning the ways to defeat the attacks of the devil in your life and in the lives of your loved ones.

The Parable of the Sower Explained (Matt 13:18-23)

“Hear then the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the Evil One comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path.

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 

As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 

As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” 

– Lord, renew our mind in You and cultivate it so that Your Word will take root in our hearts and lives.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Footnotes:
1) page 5, Waking the Dead
2) page 22

2 Responses to “REFLECTION: Dry bones…”

  1. In His Time says:

    Cecilia Molnar July 13, 2014 – 11:33 p.m.

    Wow – how I needed to read this. Thanks again, Melissa, for your love and blessings. You are such a sweetheart to share your knowledge and faith – I have a lot to learn (re: my job).

    God Bless,

    love Cecilia

  2. In His Time says:

    Seminarian Larry Lynn July 14, 2014 12:15 a.m.

    A beautiful reflection, Melissa. Thank you.

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