No Fear of Death: A Homily from Genesee Abbey on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven by Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO

I think a message we can take away from today’s feast is that we do not need to dread death. Death is actually a homecoming—something to be looking forward to.

Think of what this day must have been like for Mother Mary. She is finally reunited with her Son again. All those years between the Ascension and the Assumption must have been hard for her. I’m sure she would have missed his presence terribly. It would have been a sort of exile for her. But today they were reunited for all eternity. What a joy it must have been for both of them, given the incredible bond between them. A bond that could only be matched by the special bond between her and the Holy Spirit and the Father. The Holy Spirit was her Spouse. It was He who had overshadowed her and been the Agent of her conception of the long-awaited Messiah, the Word of God. And God the Father had chosen her from all eternity to be his special daughter. He preserved her from all traces of original sin and gave her ineffable graces to be the mother of his Only-Begotten Son. He saw her as the apex of his creation. Now, on this day, being brought into the bosom of the Holy Trinity itself, there is no way to imagine a happier moment for Mary.

As if that were not enough, we can also imagine Mary’s joy at being reunited with her beloved parents, Joachim and Ann. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing my parents again, and Mary’s heart is much purer than mine. Also, there had to be a special bond between the hearts of Mary and Joseph after all the many disappointments and thrills they shared together. Now they could share together the bliss of the Beatific Vision and treasure the role they were privileged to play in the nurturing and training of the Savior of the World.

In my imagination, I see the Patriarchs and Prophets and all the great men and women of the Old Testament greeting Mary with beaming faces and paying this lowly handmaid homage for being the Mother of their God and the only one of our race to be completely free from sin. Our Mother Mary is so loveable . . . how could the joy of heaven not be at fever pitch as she passes from Earth to heaven?

And this should all give us hope. We, of course, are not anywhere near being on a par with Mary and cannot expect the kind of welcome she received. But we still have much to look forward to after death. In addition to looking forward to seeing my parents again, I’m looking forward to meeting a brother and sister I never knew. David Gregory died as an infant three years ahead of me, and Rosemary was a miscarriage my mother had. There are many ancestors I’ve heard stories about. I’ll have all of eternity to hear those stories firsthand and even watch what amounts to a video. My mind is flooded with the faces of people who filled the years as I was growing up. Harry Woods grew wonderful watermelons and always shared them with our family. So many teachers and aunts and uncles who left an indelible mark. I pray God they will all be there when I arrive.

By far, though, the main attraction will be the Beatific Vision. God is the ultimate of goodness and truth and beauty. It will just keep unfolding and we will never get to the end of new discoveries, new insights, new ways in which God was just so much more good and beautiful and loveable and loving than we ever imagined. Our hearts long to be loved infinitely. Our minds crave infinite knowledge. Only God can satisfy those passions he put there. We will have finally arrived at our destiny.

I recently was talking to a friend who had sustained some burns in an accident and had to spend a few days in Strong Memorial Hospital. I’ve forgotten how the conversation went; I must have made the comment that he almost “checked out” on us. He answered that he’s not ready to die—he likes it down here. That image of sitting on a cloud playing a harp just doesn’t do it for him. God better have something for him to do or he’ll get bored. He likes a challenge. I’m thinking to myself now, “Don’t worry, Wayne. Heaven is going to surpass all your wildest dreams. Boredom is going to be the farthest thing from your mind. God’s realm is so far beyond anything we can imagine.

It’s natural for us to fear death or dread it or not want to think about it. Some of it is our survival instinct, some of it is fear of the unknown. Some of it may be the fear of what awaits us in Purgatory. But even that will all be part of the loving plan of God. I’m sure at the moment we will embrace it and not want it any other way. Ultimately, what matters is being able to spend eternity with God. And today’s feast gives us the assurance and hope that our humanity will be able to share in God’s divinity.