Today’s readings are a combination of the well-known (the Gospel) and the “what’s-going-on” (Ezekiel). The former is the familiar story of the man, afflicted for 38 years, who encounters Jesus and is heal and has hope restored. The latter is a grand vision of living waters flowing from the Temple into all the land bring abundance and life.
The Ezekiel reading is the epilogue to the “dry bones’ vision the prophet had just proclaimed. In his vision, the prophet finds himself standing in a valley full of dry human bones. Before him, the bones begin to move and assemble into human figures, skeletons rising and standing in the valley. Almost as in modern computer-generated visual effect, the skeletons begin to receive layers of living flesh: tendons, muscles, organs and skin. They then arise, standing upright, alive and vital. These are the Israelites living in exile who are returning to Jerusalem.
So too, the man in the Gospel is revitalized, arises restored, and standing upright takes his mat and returns to the fullness of life.
The first reading for today follows the dry-bones account. It is a vision of the restored, returned people of Israel and their mission to the world. They are to carry the story of the healing power of God into the world. Ezekiel portrays that mission as living waters flowing from the Jerusalem Temple into the world, bring life – an image akin to the restoration of the Garden of Eden. The Prophet Isaiah portrays it as a light shining from the Temple on Zion, calling all the nations to the Glory of God.
In between the readings is the responsorial psalm and its refrain: “The Lord of hosts is with us.” (Ps 46) In the Ezekiel reading, he never calls the center of the vision, Jerusalem. It is a new city simply called “The LORD is there.” (Ez 48:35). In the gospel, the Lord is there.
And today in our celebration of this Eucharist, the Lord is here. May our dry bones be lifted up and restored that we may proclaim God’s hope and healing to a waiting world.
The Book of Ezekiel is complex and can be daunting, a challenge to understand given all its symbols and references to other Scripture. The good people at the Bible Project have produced to videos to walk you through the Book of Ezekiel in a way that gives you the “big picture.” Here are links to the videos: