+David M. O’Connell, C.M. – Homily at Peter Goldbach’s Mass of the Resurrection
I am so very grateful to our provincial, Father Michael Carroll for his kind and gracious invitation to celebrate this Mass of Christian Burial for our beloved confrere, brother and friend, Father Peter Goldbach.
This is a very meaningful moment for me. Father Goldbach was among the very first Vincentians I met at St. Joseph’s Seminary some 44 years ago and he is the last teacher I had from that time to go home to God. And we have been friends ever since.
Our first reading today is a familiar one, taken from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes. It is really a poem, a collection of wisdom sayings, that presents 14 different and opposite pairs of human activities. The author intended to make his readers aware that God knows what is best for us and that God alone provides the context for our life and its times and seasons.
Father Goldbach knew that well. At 102 years of age, there wasn’t a season in life that he did not experience. He lived with the conviction that God loves us deeply and that he cares for us in good times and bad. His deep faith led him to that conviction, never questioning God, but simply accepting life and its moments as God provided. “God has made everything appropriate to its time.” Those of us who knew and loved Father Goldbach could not help but sense his simple, deep and abiding faith.
In his life and faith, this Vincentian priest for almost 70 years never doubted the sacred words we hear in our second reading from the Letter to the Romans and he joyfully lived them: “If God is for us, who can be against us?… What could separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? … Father Goldbach was “convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things,* nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wasn’t that the way he lived? Wasn’t that the core of his heart and soul as a man, as a Vincentian, as a priest?
Who can forget the image of this confrere of ours, in his final years and burdened with diminished sight, trudging across the campus, to hear confessions and to extend the love and mercy of Christ to those who came to him, perhaps feeling “separated” or “isolated” or burdened.
Father Goldbach never wavered. He lived today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, offering his hand and heart as Christ did: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Father Goldbach believed that to the end. And he believed it with a gentle smile, a kind word and a twinkle in his eye that was really an invitation from this loyal son of St. Vincent de Paul to believe with him.
In the Rite of Ordination to Priesthood, the bishop instructs the newly ordained priest by telling him, “share with all people the word of God you have received … believe what you read, teach what you believe, and put into practice what you teach.” I offer those words to you today, not so much to commemorate the beginning of Father Goldbach’s priestly ministry at ordination in 1944 but, rather, to mark its end here on earth Monday of this week. As he was instructed on his ordination day, as he lived his entire priestly and Vincentian life, so too today, in death, Father Goldbach instructs those he leaves behind: “share the word of God you have received.”
When asked to reflect about his priesthood, Father Goldbach once said, “You know being a priest is all about God working through me. He needs people of earth to do His work, and I have been privileged to be one of His workers for so many years. I know that I’ve have brought many people to God and helped them to get them back on the road to heaven. Nobody, and I mean nobody, could ask for a better life that that!” Thank you, Lord, for his life and ministry, none better. Thank you, Peter, for sharing all of it with us for so long.
+David M. O’Connell, C.M.