Pastor’s Corner for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Year A, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

If the ascension tells us anything, it is that human bodies are important. Jesus ascended into heaven not as a divine spirit but as a complete person, with a body, no matter how glorified that body is. Bodies are important. There is a physical dimension to our existence that is intrinsic to our identity. We are not brains in a vat, disconnected from external stimuli. We are not spirit that transcends the dross of materiality. There is a unity between mind, body, and spirit. And that’s why bodies matter, why bodies are important.

Human rights, at least from a Catholic perspective, are grounded in the fact that we are made in the image of God, and therefore have an inalienable dignity. We do not torture or injury people in any way as we cannot hurt a body, without also injuring mind or spirit. In the same way we cannot mentally abuse someone without also having a negative physical impact on them. The dignity of our personhood knits together all aspects of our being. We are not simply spirit, able to do what we like to bodies. We are not only bodies, able to do what we like to bodies without it having a spiritual, mental, or emotional impact.

It’s why we have an obligation to ensure that children get adequate nutrition, because without a good diet the development of the brain is affected, and that child will never reach his or her potential. Its why we have an obligation to ensure that prisoners are not harmed or mistreated. Its why we have an obligation to support women who may feel that their only option in a desperate situation is abortion.

The implications of the dignity of the human body is a golden thread that runs through and joins together all of our social teachings, moral teachings, our medical ethics.

I think it is appropriate for us to conclude our reflection with Psalm 139, a hymn of praise which describes the wonder of our creation by God:

You created the deepest parts of my being.
                        You put me together inside my mother’s body.
How you made me is amazing and wonderful.
                        I praise you for that.
What you have done is wonderful.
                         I know that very well.
None of my bones was hidden from you
                        when you made me inside my mother’s body.


Fr Bruce Botha SJ