Live long enough, and you’re bound to encounter it I suppose: A feeling of utter helplessness.
‘So what do you do?’ a friend asked, as he shared the story of a 31-year-old step-niece who’s turning tricks to support her drug addiction.
The question cut me to the quick this morning, having spent some considerable energy in recent days helping a friend—from an entirely different circle—deal with the pain of a binge-drinking spouse.
You pray, of course. But doing so can seem like a rather pathetic solution to the slo-mo horror unfolding before your eyes.
You pray, and God answers the prayer.
God responds to your groaning…by taking your hand…and leading you alongside the prophet Ezekiel into the center of the vast plain ‘now filled with bones.’
He made me walk among the bones in every direction so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain. How dry they were!
He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come to life?
I answered, “Lord GOD, you alone know that.”
We heard Ezekiel’s remarkable story proclaimed at Mass this morning, and as I reflected on it I realized it was something I very much needed to encounter today—a balm for my helplessness.
Then God said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them:
Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life. 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.
That life itself is beyond my control.
For it is in God that we move and live and have our being. My own ‘dry bones’ (and those of every addict I encounter) depend on the Spirit to animate them.
And, as the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner reminds us: These dry bones, our helplessness, are God’s gift, too:
Our heart is so inert and tired. It is worn out with everyday things. And God is so far away—so it seems to us, the spiritually blind and lame. Consequently our heart feels it cannot love…No, of ourselves, we have not got the love of which the first commandment speaks. Only [God] who demands it of us can give it to us. And so, we will at least seek this Love from [God]. We will pray for this Love…We must pray for this Love.
—Karl Rahner, S.J., Everyday Faith
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.