Think with me, for a moment, about the full import of this amazing event in world history.
Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, God, came into the flesh. He lived among us, worked among us, loved and obeyed His mother and foster father, and made friends. He made things out of wood with his hands. He walked about and experienced the rain, the heat of the sun, the amazing nighttime skies, beautiful sunrises, arresting sunsets, the songs of birds, and the rush of water. He smelled flowers, picked fruit, ate, drank, laughed, and cried. He experienced the birth of friends’ babies and the deaths of loved ones. As God He knew from all eternity that these things *would* be, but until He was one of us, in the flesh, He did not experience them in time, with emotions, and experiencing the temporal emotions of others.
He eventually left his mother’s house and moved to Capernaum. He moved all about with his chosen ones. He taught all who would listen that God loves us and has loved us and will love us. He taught us how to respond to God’s love and share it with others.
He ruffled some feathers. Some very self-important feathers. Eventually the bearers of these self-important feathers prevailed upon the local political leader to put Him to death. The local political leader complied for politically expedient reasons.
He died a most horrid and unjust death. His body died and was buried in haste in a borrowed tomb.
He rose again to life, in that body he had from his mother’s womb.
Now, importantly, as we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Ascension, consider what happened next. Here was a man who was killed in the flesh and came back to life in the flesh.
As far as we’re concerned, flesh dies. He did die, but He, the Light of whom John said, “the darkness could not comprehend it,” *conquered* death, and rose again to life. What, then, could He do with His flesh? Could He die again? How? He had conquered death; death no longer had power over Him. Would he simply cast off his flesh in some way and return to heaven as pure God? Well no, because then what was the point of coming in the flesh in the first place?
Unless the matter matters.
God the Son took on flesh, with all that it entails in a fallen world, and submitted to the death to which our flesh is subject, then showed us that death is not the end. And then He took our flesh with Him into heaven.
The Resurrection is, of course, the event that makes our faith live. St. Paul recognized that if Christ did not rise, then we are the most pitiable of men. But Christ did rise, and then glorified our flesh by uniting it eternally to the Godhead by ascending in the flesh (not just *with* the flesh, but in the flesh) to heaven, in the sight of His disciples, promising to return, and to return in the flesh.
In so doing He affirmed that the flesh is no mere ancillary part of our overall existence, the vehicle through which we act and then cast aside to live our true “spiritual” life after death, but is intrinsic to who we are and how we are to relate to each other and to God.
Consider the import of the Ascension for our modern day life and political struggles: the matter matters. God says so through His actions. He ratified the dignity of the flesh by His actions. We are not disembodied pilots of unimportant ships. Our physical nature can never be considered insignificant, from the moment of our conception: the moment at which our biological parents consented, by their actions, to our coming into the world.
We are called to live our life, with the joys, sorrows, pleasures, pains, highs, lows, suffering—inevitable suffering—and incredible lessons and insights that come along the way, precisely because they are what make us human and fit for union with God, the God who lived and experienced joy, sorrow, pleasure, pain, highs, lows, inevitable suffering, and *learned* lessons about being human (how to walk, talk, swing a hammer, dig a ditch, cry, and so much more) that were theretofore experientially foreign to the Godhead.
And it is these lessons and experiences we never have a right to unjustly deprive ourselves or another human being of.
God himself did not avoid any of them, but embraced them with joy and hopeful expectation; how can we do otherwise?