20 April 2024

Funeral Homily for Steven Cosner

The Funeral Mass for Steven Cosner

Dear brothers and sisters,

Even as Mother Church continues to rejoice in the marvelous wonder of the Lord’s Resurrection and his triumphant victory over the grave, we gather this morning at his altar to implore his mercy as we prepare to entrust the mortal remains of Steven to God. It is perhaps, then, a curious thing that this morning we hear the Lord say through the Apostle John, “there shall be no more death” (Revelation 21:4). The Lord Christ can destroy that ancient enemy because he has already contended with him and emerged the victor. Consequently, for those who know the voice of the Good Shepherd, death is no reason to fear, for their “reward will be great in heaven” (cf. Psalm 23:4; Matthew 5:12).

We too often lose sight of this tremendous reality and look toward death with trepidation, perhaps because of the shadows of that dark valley (cf. Psalm 23:4).

There no one will be with us, neither father nor mother, neither brother nor sister, neither lover nor friend. There science does not help us, nor art nor culture. We go alone through the dark ravine. But Christ is there; he alone, because he died for us, after living for us, and then rising from the grave, conquered death. In this way he accomplished a mysterious identification with us. He entered into our destiny so divinely and powerfully that he lives the life of each believer, as St. Paul says, “I live, yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Whenever a believer says, “I,” Christ says, “I,” in him. Whenever a believer endures his destiny, it is Christ who endures it in him.[1]

“Now the flock can walk in tranquility, accompanied by the familiar rhythmical beat of the staff on the ground, marking the shepherd’s reassuring presence.”[2] It might be said, then, that Christ leads his flock, one at a time, through the valley of death to “the holy city, a new Jerusalem,” where God himself “will wipe every tear from their eyes; and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:2, 4).

If we are to attain this blessedness, this happiness, for which each of us yearns, we must allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord Jesus who leads us “in right paths for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:6). His name means “the Lord saves” and he cannot – and will not – lead us astray, but we can – and do – stray from him. Nevertheless, he walks alongside us and waits for us to take his hand in ours so he might lead us to heaven.

There are some today who call this hope of the Christian nothing more than a fairytale, a pleasant dream to soothe consciences, and comfort simpletons. These are those who imagine heaven to be something rather like a continuation of this life, but this is not what the Christian expects or means by heaven. Saint Paul tells us, that when death is at last destroyed, God will be “all in all” and Saint John says “God himself will always be with them as their God” (I Corinthians 15:28; Revelation 21:3). What does this mean?

When he considered what all of this means, Saint Augustine said,

In this house God’s people shall everlastingly dwell with their God and in their God, and God with his people and in his people, God filling his people, his people filled with God, so that “God may be all in all” – the very same God being their prize in peace who was their strength in battle.[3]

This is what the Christian means by heaven, by eternity: life in and with God. But how can we understand this?

It cannot be doubted that to speak in this way seems rather esoteric and raises perhaps as many questions as it answers.

To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality—this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.[4]

To put it another way, “With this term "Heaven" we wish to say that God, the God who made himself close to us, does not abandon us in or after death but keeps a place for us and gives us eternity. We mean that in God there is room for us.”[5]

We have gathered today to implore the Lord to plunge Steven into this ocean of infinite love, to give them life in the full. May the Lord pour out of his healing and cleansing love upon him and give him the reward of himself, the blessed happiness for which we all hope. Amen.

[1] Romano Guardini, The Wisdom of the Psalms, Stella Lange, trans. (Chicago, Illinois: Henry Regnery Company, 1968), 100.

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience Address, 5 October 2010.

[3] Saint Augustine of Hippo, City of God, 17.12.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, 12.

[5] Ibid., Homily, 15 August 2010.

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