GoffHOMILY – Bill Goff’s funeral – January 3, 2014
Rev. Robert P. Maloney, C.M.
Wisdom 3:1-9
Psalm 23
Rev. 14:13
John 11:17-27

When someone is sick for a long time, we tend to forget how they once were. Bill was sick for
more than 20 years, but I knew him when he was young, healthy and energetic. I had the
privilege to be his classmate. Bill was quite funny, with a dry subtle sense of humor. He could
laugh at himself and could get away with poking fun at the rest of us in the seminary because he
was seven or eight years older than we were.

He was a good basketball player, with a smooth jump shot which he could pump in consistently
from 10 to 15 feet. We played with and against each other hundreds of times. He was bright,
but studies came hard for him because he entered the seminary late and didn’t have the
background in Latin and philosophy and Greek and Hebrew that many younger seminarians in
those days had. But we found it awesome that he had studied Russian, and with the gap in age
between him and us, plus his military service, I think we secretly wondered whether he had
worked with the CIA during those Cold War times.

He was a lovable guy. The people he served as a priest found him that way too. In Panama, in
Brooklyn, in Jackson, Michigan, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and in Providence Hospital, people
found him very approachable. He was a no-frills guy, simple in his ways. He knew that listening
and showing God’s mercy were more important than a stream of eloquent words. Did you
notice the words used to describe him when we shared our recollections last night: humble,
simple, approachable. Those were words St. Vincent loved. He told us: “Humility is the
foundation of all evangelical perfection. It is the core of the spiritual life.” Bill lived that.

Then sickness came and long years of being unable to express himself. I can only imagine how
difficult they were.

We gather here today because Bill, whom we loved as a brother, has died. We celebrate a life
lived faithfully in sickness and in health. But we also gather to profess our faith, like his, in the
resurrection. All of us at different moments in our lives wonder about life after death. It’s the
unavoidable question. All of us wonder about the images we have of life after death: a banquet
with The Lord and those we love, resting in peace, seeing The Lord face to face. We know that
these are only images, that they’re inadequate. But through them and beyond them, we believe
in the person of the risen Lord. We believe that Christ is risen and that we will rise with him. In
the end, we believe in a person. I am the resurrection and the life, Jesus tells Martha. The one
who believes in me, even if he or she dies, will live. I am the way and the truth and the life. No
one comes to the Father except through me. I am the vine. I am the gate. I am the shepherd.

Sometimes poetry expresses our deepest beliefs better than words. An 18th-century English
poet, as he sensed that he was dying, wrote these words:

I know that my Redeemer lives.
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!

He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives to bless me with his love.
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed.
He lives to bless in time of need.

He lives to grant me rich supply.
He lives to guide me with his eye.
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears.
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives, my kind, wise heav’nly Friend.
He lives and loves me to the end.
He lives, and while he lives, I’ll sing.
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath.
He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives my mansion to prepare.
He lives to bring me safely there.

He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”
He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”

As we celebrate Bill’s funeral today, I encourage you: renew your focus on the risen Lord. I am
the resurrection and the life, Jesus says to us, whoever believes in me will live. And, with Bill,
we respond: I know that my redeemer lives. How sweet the joy this sentence gives. He lives
and grants me daily breath. He lives, and I shall conquer death

(From the Vincentian Digest of the Eastern Province)