20th Week, Friday, August 21

 Ezekiel 37:1-4 / Matthew 22:34-40 "I will breathe life back into them!"  

1. Robert Veninga describes an Alcoholics Anonymous support group in his book A Gift of Hope. He says: "The friendship among those seven men is one of the strongest bonds of friendship that I have ever seen. They telephone each other several times a week. Even when the executives are traveling on business, they make certain that they fly home for the Saturday night meeting. It's just too precious to miss." If today's reading applies to any group of people, it applies to members of Alcoholics Anonymous. God has, indeed, breathed life back into them— individually and as a group. The dry bones will change into real human beings.

 2. This is the most vivid and famous of Ezekiel's visions: the valley of the "born again" bones. It is a powerful vision of the ability of God's Spirit to restore life. The broken bones signify Israel and Judah. The people were broken, dead in spirit and scattered all over the known world in the diaspora. Suddenly, the bones start to gather. One bone connects to another. Sinews appear. Finally, the Spirit of God rushes through to give them new life and a people are restored. Ezekiel used this vision to show a despondent people that God would raise them up and inject new life into them. That vision of Ezekiel came true in the Church. Life and love will triumph. In Ezekiel, the hope for humanity is proclaimed as the dead come back to life; and according to Jesus, this is linked to the supreme law of love.

3. Gospel Reading:
When we were kids, we were expected to memorize the basic truths of our Faith. At the top of the list were the Ten Commandments, which were difficult for a child to memorize. Today’s Gospel passage where Jesus condenses the 10 commandments into two offers a clue to help us to remember—or to teach—the Ten Commandments more easily.

4. If not pointed out, we may never have noticed that in many pictures of Moses bringing down the two tablets from Mt. Sinai, the Ten Commandments are not divided five and five. Rather, the first tablet has the first three commandments, and the other tablet the remaining seven. This illustrates Jesus’ teaching today: that there are, in fact, simply “two commandments”.

5. On the Cross most especially, as much as his very Person, Jesus embodies the unity of these “two commandments”—the vertical bar to God and the horizontal bar to your neighbours. True God and true man, Jesus’ teaching today merely foreshadows what He teaches us on Calvary. Some people teach a piety that promotes complete devotion to God, but ignores or even disdains the corrupted human race. Others teach an ethic that promotes an apotheosis of human nature, but disdains or even altogether denies God. But neither of God’s “two commandments” can stand or be understood thoroughly without the other. Jesus reveals the meaning of each of these commandments in His divine Person, and in His Self-sacrifice on Calvary.

6. The theme of the Gospel readings this week has been the reality of the spiritual domain. It is as much a real part of an individual's make-up as is one's intellect or social network. Yet, it is neglected. A person can be a theological giant while remaining spiritually mediocre. Some people let this part of themselves weaken until all that is left is dry bone. The spiritual life is dynamic, however, and its development requires method, discipline and practice. It has heights of achievement and predictable sequences of crises. The question of the young man haunts us. What must I do? There is a great deal more to the spiritual life than keeping the Commandments. There is the experience of the kingdom, access to which comes not with decision but discipleship—that slow and gradual process by which we translate the two great Commandments into our lives in thousands of ways. On these two great pillars of love of God and of neighbor everything rests: Law, prophets and the spiritual life.
7. Let us pray: Lord God, loving Father, you have bound yourself to us with strings of love and let this love appear among us in human form in Jesus Christ, your Son. Let our love, however limited and hesitant, reflect a bit the greatness of the love by which you yourself love us in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. God Bless.

Do we believe God can breathe life back into us, if we turn our lives over to him as AAs do? "1 prophesied as I had been told. Breath entered the bodies, and they came to life and stood up." I saw God's glory

The summary of the faith of the Catholic Church is expressed in the 12 Articles of Faith in the Apostles' Creed. In these 12 Articles of Faith, what is essentially expressed is who God is and who we are. Article 11 states the belief in "the resurrection of the body". From the Catholic perspective, a human being is a union of body and soul, so death is just the temporary separation of body and soul until the end of the world, the Second Coming of Christ, the General Judgement, and the resurrection of the dead. The virtuous go, body and soul, into heaven, and the damned go, body and soul, into hell. Whether virtuous or damned, their mortal remains are in this world as they wait for the Last Day when this resurrection of the body will happen. The 1st reading gives the vision of the prophet Ezekiel and it is also a prophecy for the House of Israel. There is a vivid description of the valley full of dry bones but with Ezekiel proclaiming the prophecy over the bones, they began to have flesh growing on them and skin covering them. The prophecy was for the God's people then, the House of Israel. But in a way, it is also for the People of God now, the Church. The reality of the prophecy will be fulfilled on the Last Day, and we believe in that as we profess in the Creed about the "resurrection of the body". Hence the remains of the deceased must be given respect and dignity. But it is not just about the deceased. Just as the prophecy in the 1st reading is for the House of Israel, it is also for us the Church. We are called to be a people that walk in ways of the Lord as expressed by the commandments that Jesus expressed in the gospel. We are to be a people of love and it is love that will give life. Without love, then we are just like dry bones without any flesh and skin. But when we love God and love our neighbour, then we have truly expressed our faith in the resurrection of the body.