Father Dennis’ Homily March 29, 2020
THESE DRY BONES
In our first reading today, Ezekiel is in the valley of the dry bones. Maybe we all can relate; we feel like Ezekiel in that valley of dry bones dealing with the stress of Covid-19, our cold gray lifeless day. Nature seems shrouded in winter and not in the rebirth of spring. The trees show no new signs of life yet. It is difficult to believe that in a month nature will be alive with new life. These barren trees will come back to life – spring is coming, new life!
All of our readings this Sunday are about rebirth and new beginnings. Ezekiel is telling the people of Israel, and all of us today, our long captivity will end, and God would bring new life. It is normal for us dealing with Covid-19 to question, ‘where is this new life, where is our God?”
How often have you or I cried with the grieving Martha and Mary in our times of trouble asking God: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would never have died! If you had been here, Lord, this never would have happened. If you had been here, Lord, things would have never turned out as they did. Where were you? Where were you when I needed you? Lord, you could have helped, and you didn’t! Why not?” Even this is an admission of faith and a prayer by Martha & Mary. The Lord is with us through it all!
The focus then of the Lazarus story and Ezekiel’s dry bones tale is not on those who are physically dead, but those, like Martha and Ezekiel, and us, who struggle to live on and to believe while surrounded by our difficulties.
The Gospel tells us that Jesus wept and that he was troubled in spirit. Could Jesus have doubted that his friend would know eternal life? Or could his tears have been caused by the doubters – those who questioned his love for Lazarus? “He opened the eyes of that blind man,” the crowed questioned, “Why could he not have done something to stop this man form dying?” Perhaps Jesus cried because they looked for love to be proved by miracles. Perhaps he cried because they had misunderstood the message of his healing. In this world there will always be illness and heartaches.
Jesus is not a good-luck charm which, when properly worn, will ward off pain and death. I am sorry, but pain and death are part of life and no one can escape it. Jesus is simply a friend, a companion in our grief, who calls us to go on living when all life seems to be is dry bones. Jesus is with us!
The story of Jesus, Martha, and Lazarus reminds of a summer I spent in Chicago Heights as a young priest. A Hispanic, single mother suffered the loss of her 18-year-old boy in the motorcycle accident. He was her only son. As a young priest I wondered – what would I say to this mother, and her two daughters? I did not speak Spanish, so in my sermon, I came down from the pulpit, and simply gave the mother and daughters a yellow rose from the coffin, hugged them and we all cried together. Everyone felt that God was present there in that moment that needed no words. Jesus was there with us!
While I was dealing this week of Covid-19, and our late winter landscape, I reflected on the story of Ezekiel’s dry bones and the raising of Lazarus to life. I reflected on the shrouded landscape still being held prisoner by winter. So take a lesson from nature, remember the song, The Rose: “Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow, lies the seed that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” There is life and there is death, and remember in Jesus Christ, there is life after death, just as spring follows winter, there will be new life.