He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come to life? I answered, “Lord GOD, you alone know that.” Ezekiel 37:3
Drought has been part of my personal history as well as my spiritual journey. I grew up in Southeastern Texas during the 1950s, during the era when cotton was still king and fields of cotton, corn and maize were split by narrow and dusty country roads. In our parish church, Rogation Days were taken seriously. Catholic farmers and farmworkers would gather for special prayers, the process around the parish grounds and fervently pray for a good harvest with good weather. We would pray for rain for when crops were planted and sunny days for when crops were harvested. We were always blessed with more sun than rain!
For all of the advancements of Artificial Intelligence, God is still the author of all creation and makes the rainfall upon the good and the bad. We may be bad stewards who distribute our water unjustly and who use our water wastefully, but we cannot make the waterfall from the sky in the areas where we need rain.
Those who live in drought, live with dryness. Dryness will eventually drain out of us the much-needed moisture for a healthy life. We can survive for many days without food, but we cannot survive long without water. For that reason, dryness becomes a great metaphor for our human and spiritual life.
People who are dry of human kindness and compassion and affection are people who come across as unfriendly and unwelcoming. They seem to lack the grace that the waters of Baptism give us They seem to be people who are devoid of life, meaningful relationships and humanity. They seem to be like the walking dead.
So many saints, from our Founder, St. Paul of the Cross to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, have confessed many years of spiritual dryness. Not just one or two times a year, but 30 or 40 years at a time.
Where is the hope? The hope is found in today’s Mass Readings. The prophet Ezequiel finds himself in a desert, filled with dry bones. He is asked if they can be brought back to life! His answer comes from years of personal prayer and listening to God: he cannot but God can make it happen!
People who have suffered greatly in their lives are able to sing the Negro Spiritual, “Dry Bones” with great energy and life. That Spiritual uses the refrain: Hear the Word of the Lord many times over. What connects our dry bones together is the Word of the Lord. For the Word of the Lord is Life!
That may be the reason why spiritual dryness is not a sign of God’s absence, but a sign of God’s purification. God invites us into a very special place, a desert, which at first glance, is filled with dry bones. But, in reality, it is filled with God’s promise of new life.
It was in the desert that God established a covenant of Love with the People of Israel. In today’s Gospel Jesus sums up the whole law with two commandments: Love God with our whole heart, soul and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Love and Life go hand in hand. When we walk in the midst of “dry bones,” may we have the faith to sing, as the Negro Spiritual does: “Hear the Word of the Lord.” Dem bones got up and danced before God!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.