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A reflection for the Ascension of the Lord

Emily Sanna reflects on the readings for May 29, 2022.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year C):

Acts 1:1-11
Psalms 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Ephesians 1:17-23
Luke 24:46-53

Reflection: Our bodies are holy

I have a confession: I don’t always like looking in the mirror. Six months after giving birth, I prefer to hide under sweatpants, baggy T-shirts, and other work-from-home couture. I am proud of my body for what it has accomplished. Growing a human for nine months, birthing him, and keeping him alive with food my body produces is a pretty cool feat. But I’d rather not examine the physical impact of these accomplishments.

Then last month, I signed up for a baby swimming class. Trying on my swimsuit that’s barely been used in years—thanks to a pandemic, then pregnancy—I was confronted with the stretchmarks on my thighs and the tummy that may never go away, but also with the other marks that make me me. The tattoo of a chickadee I got after my grandparents died. The nose piercing I got while studying abroad. The scar from cutting my knee on a rock while playing in a creek by my childhood home. The dimple by my eye from falling off a piano bench as a toddler.

Bodies aren’t just instrumental tools. They matter. My body—all bodies—tells a story about who I am and where I came from. I would not be me without my body in all its particularities.

Like me refusing to look at my postpartum body in the mirror, Christians are often tempted to ignore the bodily aspects of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection. It is easier to make sense of our relationship with God or the Easter mystery on the level of the metaphysical. But this Sunday, as we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, we are confronted with the fact that bodies matter.

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Scripture is clear that Jesus returns not as a ghost but as a physical human person. When he ascends into heaven, he does so not in some idealized form, but with all his particularities, with wounds in his hands and whip marks on his back. But also, with scars on his fingertips from cutting himself with a chisel while helping his father at work. Chicken pox scars. Callouses on his feet from the hundreds of miles he walked. Maybe he had weird tan lines or a broken toe that never healed correctly. This body is taken to heaven to rejoin God.

The Feast of the Ascension reminds us that Jesus is not the toned, beautiful white man we see in much of our art. Jesus was wounded, hurt, and scarred. His body told the story of his life from his birth in a manger until his death on the cross. And this wounded body was holy enough to enter heaven. Likewise, our bodies are holy too—not despite our disabilities, imperfections, and scars, but because of them.

This Sunday, I hope you take delight in your body. In how it has supported you, how it serves as a map of your past and of your future. Bodies more than matter—they are how the kingdom of God is revealed.

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