More and more people in our day feel alienated from themselves and trapped. Yet the longing for peace can be satisfied ...
In a 2020 study undertaken by the Women and Equalities Committee of the UK Parliament, 61% of adults and 66% of children reported feeling negative or very negative about their body image most of the time. The study, which also examined the effects of social media on UK citizens, reported, “Both adults and young people told us that they feel pressured to make changes to their bodies and their appearance due to persistent advertising, most commonly, to lose weight.”
So many problems in our culture are rooted in seeing ourselves as body first, and soul later, if at all. This is merely one example. It is a tremendous suffering. More and more people in our day feel alienated from themselves and trapped, divorced from the transcendent purposes of life.
The fundamental question every human person asks is: Who am I? The late Pope Saint John Paul II writes, “The created man finds himself from the first moment of his existence before God in search of his own being, as it were … today one would say, in search of his own ‘identity’” (TOB 5:5). Male and female God created us. But the biological definition is not the exhaustive totality of who we are as human persons.
Commenting on the work of John Paul II, Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete writes, “John Paul II, is not a man with faith. His identity is faith. For him the human being is the biological creature, what defines a human being is faith. Therefore the human being defines his or her life in terms of the transcendent mystery or it simply will be unable to live a full human life. It is as simple as that.”
Anchored in the powers of supernatural faith, John Paul II was able to confidently proclaim the mysteries of life that Jesus invites us into in his holy Gospel.
Enter the mystery of Jesus’ Ascension. True cause of our salvation, Our Lord in his Ascension completes the saving mysteries of his passion, death, and resurrection, making it possible for us to enter fully into the glory of heaven. Jesus not merely paves the way, leading us to heaven, rather he makes it possible for us to continue on the journey. By his Ascension, he bestows on us the grace, the true power and strength, to follow where the master trod.
This, as cause of salvation, is a mystery really doing something for us in our lives here and now. Jesus’ Ascension enables us to embrace and meditate on the truth that we are not merely bodies. That we as human beings are created for glory. That we who are not merely our bodies, but our bodies and souls, are created for God. That the longing to be at peace in a place is real and can be satisfied. That place is the place of glory in heaven with Jesus.
The question is though, how can the Church awaken us to this truth? How do we help those who suffer and are in pain to ask the deepest questions? To ask them well? To ask at all? Monsignor Albacete writes, “The Church has gone with its gospel to people who were fundamentally religious. They may have worshipped a lizard or something like that, but it’s not difficult. You move from the lizard to God and to Christ very simply and call Christ the sacred lizard or something like that. It’s not a problem. You deal with the religious instinct, the openness to transcend. But when you deal with cultures that sense or feel the religious reality as threatening to self-development and liberty and as in fact infantile or pathological ways of dealing with your life, how do you present any gospel?” How then, do we preach transcendence to a culture that wishes not to ascend?
Beauty awakens ascent. Virtue awakens ascent. Love awakens ascent. Everything that is true and good points to more, it points however distantly to the God who made. We must meet the challenge of the world, which desires to crawl down, to crawl away, with the light and life from above!
For his part, Bishop Barron notes that for the young people of our day freedom is the foundation of identity. He writes, “My freedom comes first, and then I determine essence, who I am, the meaning of my life. It’s all based on my freedom – my sexualtiy, my gender, purpose of my life is all up to me.”
Authentic freedom is to be found nowhere but in God and his goodness. May we, like St. Paul, boast of living for the things that are above, and share the heights of that glory.