1st Reading – Ezekiel 37:12-14
Ezekiel is of a priestly family and was among the captives who were carried off to Babylon in 597 B.C. He is called “The Prophet of Divine Fidelity” because he emphasizes the fact that God is faithful in His threats as well as in His promises. He kept up the courage of his fellow captives by foretelling the doom of Babylon, the end of the captivity, and the redemption of mankind by the Messiah. He is said to have died a martyr.
Today’s reading takes place in Babylon, and Ezekiel is led out by the spirit into a plain (on which may have remained the unburied bones of those who had fallen in battle. [This is the passage which led to the old Negro spiritual “Dem Bones”.] These are the words which lead up to today’s reading (Ezekiel 37:1-11): 1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he led me out in the spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the plain, which was now filled with bones. 2 He made me walk among them in every direction so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain. How dry they were! 3 He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come to life? “Lord GOD,” I answered, “you alone know that.” 4 Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life. 6 I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD. 7 I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone. 8 I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them, and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them. 9 Then he said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life. 10 I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them; they came alive and stood upright, a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They have been saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”
This mystical experience symbolizes his mission to the exiles: through his prophesying, they will receive a new spirit that will enable them to rise from their lost hope and to lead a new life in the land of Israel.
2nd Reading – Romans 8:8-11
In Romans 5:1-11 Saint Paul announced that justified Christians have been empowered to live a new life as the result of God’s love manifested in the liberating acts of Christ. Now that liberation from sin, death, and the Law has taken place, they are able to live this life “for God”, whose love is poured out through the dynamic principle of such life, the Spirit of God Himself. Christian existence is dominated by the Spirit, not the flesh.
Gospel – John 11:1-45
Today we complete our “short course” in the faith. After rehearsing briefly the story of God’s saving acts and tying those saving acts to our baptism/confirmation, we look this week at the concept of resurrection in Christ. Our first reading told of God raising up the dry bones of Israel and restoring the people. That reading ended “I will put my Spirit in you that you may live . . .” Our Epistle reading told us of the new life and spirit given by the Lord. This is both a gift and a confrontation, however. To receive the gift, we must change our perspective of life and accept a whole new reality. Our gospel reading today tells of the resurrection of Lazarus when Jesus tells us “I am the resurrection and the life.” This is the longest continuous narrative in John outside of the passion account. It is the climax of the signs and leads directly to the decision of the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus.