bones alive

Aug 21, 2020

The visual representation (above) of today’s first reading might be a bit confronting to start the day with, and while this scripture has a happy ending it’s helpful to savour the dead bones before we jump to the positive punch line.

Imagine a valley of dried up human bones.

“the middle of a valley, a valley full of bones. He made me walk up and down among them. There were vast quantities of these bones on the ground the whole length of the valley; and they were quite dried up.”

The Lord speaks: “I am now going to make the breath enter you, and you will live. I shall put sinews on you, I shall make flesh grow on you, I shall cover you with skin and give you breath, and you will live; and you will learn that I am the Lord.”’

Now picture what happens next: “While I was prophesying, there was a noise, a sound of clattering; and the bones joined together. I looked, and saw that they were covered with sinews; flesh was growing on them and skin was covering them, but there was no breath in them.”

Then comes life: “The Lord says this: Come from the four winds, breath; breathe on these dead; let them live!”’ I prophesied as he had ordered me, and the breath entered them; they came to life again and stood up on their feet, a great, an immense army.”

It’s a powerful image for every one of us. since we all have days and even weeks when we don’t feel too great, a bit down and even dark, days when we feel out-of-sorts, a bit dried up and life-less. Even those who lived 2500 years ago had these times and expressed it saying “Our bones are dried up, our hope has gone; we are as good as dead.”

Now comes the hope, abundant with new life and energy: “The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.”’

The image is vivid, and became an anthem of hope for American slaves. You might know it as the African-American-Spiritual  “Dem Bones, Dem Bones Dem dry bones…”

The darkness we experience when the feeling of abundant life eludes us most often comes from an excessive focus on one difficult event or a person we have difficulty with. In these times we focus on the graveyard and forget the resurrection. This is why prayer on rising in the morning and before sleep at the end of the day are the daily prayer-hinges of the life of the disciple.

You might find the “let us pray” reflection below helpful, loosely based on the Consciousness Examen of Ignatius of Loyola.


An Invitation

  • Think of a part of your life which feels most like the valley of dry bones? How does that feel for you? Now invite Jesus to fulfil his promise in you: “I will give you breath, and you will live”
  • Click the image for a simple morning and evening reflection. It might be ideal for use immediately on waking in the morning before getting out of bed, or last thing at night after turning out the light.

  • Email to indicate your decision to take these days as a simple retreat-in-daily-life, and to invite others to keep you in prayer. Click the image to enlarge.



  1. Nice to have you back Fr John

  2. Thanks for the reflection.

  3. So encouraging to read your morning prayer. Father John, I love the idea United In Prayer

  4. I’ll be humming “Dem Bones” all day

  5. Your chilling yet inspirational visual representation and narrative exemplify the paradox of life.

    Standing next to my Holy Bible on the bookcase in my Living Room is a second book that captures the enigma of life. Viktor Frankl’s book, ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’, also teaches us to navigate the world by being at one with the ultimate truth and freedom to hold on to – the heart of hope and the power of love within ourselves.

    Thank you, John, for your artful reflection this morning … a poignant Christian Anthem of Loss, Grief, Death & Dying + and Hope, Glory and Peace. +


  6. Here in Philippines before we start our breakfast or before bed, we read food for faith as our daily reflection. Thanks Fr.John. It helps us start or end our day with gratefullness in our hearts to the Lord.
    rega,larry & prince


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