Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 20th, 2010

Robert P. Heaney
John A. Creighton University Professor
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Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones has captured imaginations for nearly three millennia. On its surface it seems a fantastic vision, but as with so many Old Testament stories, it is a mistake to focus too closely on the narrative details and risk missing the message. That message, entrusted to Israel, but intended for all nations and ages, is that God cares. God who is creator can and will re-create. At the end of today’s first reading God says “I have promised, and I will do it”.

Humanity had gotten itself into a terrible mess, dating back to well before the time of Abraham. We had despoiled God’s beautiful original creation, and had disrupted the intrinsic harmony of nature and all its parts, which God had intended. The tower of Babel is a biblical metaphor for the discord we humans introduced into that harmony. God’s recovery plan, which started with Abraham, and culminated in the resurrection of Jesus, involves a new creation, “making all things new”, which we celebrate and re-enact at the Easter Vigil Liturgy each Spring.

Perhaps we think of this new creation as something that we will experience after we die (which is correct as far as it goes), but, remarkably, God’s plan is actually for this world – the one we have polluted and exploited. God doesn’t choose to discard our broken world and, as it were, start over. In His covenant with Noah, God said He’d never do that. Rather, God’s plan is to straighten out the mess of current human relationships which we have perverted and manipulated. It is this world God has chosen to re-create. As St. Paul says: “All creation is groaning in labor” as it awaits this new birth. We should be alert to the fact that, when we say the “Our Father”, we’re asking God to do His will “on earth, as it is in Heaven” – not just in Heaven. It is the dry bones of our failure to be good stewards of all God has given us that God wants to revivify. Even more remarkably, God has arranged things so that He wants our help.

As N.T. Wright says in his wonderful book, Surprised by Hope, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is . . . “the foundation for a renewed way of life in and for the world” (emphasis added). St. Paul, in concluding his exposition on the resurrection (1 Cor 15:58) doesn’t say “Look forward to the great future that awaits us when we die.” Rather, he says: “Keep firm, always full of energy for the Lord’s work, being sure that in the Lord none of your labors is wasted.” “Labors” not pieties. We have work to do.

Wright concludes his book by paraphrasing Paul: “ . . . every deed done in Christ and by the Spirit, every work of true creativity – doing justice, making peace, healing families . . . seeking and winning true freedom – is an early event in the long history of things that implement Jesus’ own resurrection and anticipate the final new creation.” Such deeds “act as signposts of hope, pointing back to the first [resurrection] and on to the second . . .”
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