Army Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith, 28, died Friday, July 15, at Camp Bastion Hospital from injuries suffered during an attack in Afghanistan by insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades. A Medic, he was attending to the wounds of an allied Afghan commando when he was wounded. Wyatt was on his third deployment. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart after his first deployment and the Meritorious Service Medal posthumously.
On Saturday, July 16, John and Lori Goldsmith, his parents were informed of the death of Wyatt, their only son. They were attending the Knights of Columbus convention in Wenatchee, WA. John was recently re-installed as the Grand Knight of the local parish Council. The Goldsmiths were received into the Catholic Church when Wyatt was 15.
Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane visited the Goldsmith’s and their home parish in Colville, WA on July 17, for Sunday Mass. His homily follows:
Christians from ancient times came to an awareness, as St. Paul would put it, that when one member of Christ’s Body suffers we all suffer. It is that same awareness which draws us together this morning. We suffer with and so want to comfort John and Lori Goldsmith, who grieve over the death of their only son, Wyatt. Yet, we struggle to do so. We struggle to find words to console. Wyatt’s death, suffered in a faraway land and in service to our country, is an unspeakable loss. It leaves us speechless, for we sense that something in each of us has died with his death. That is why our voices fall silent. When one member of Christ’s Body suffers we all suffer.
But as is the case so often in life, the silence and stillness which come in a moment of great loss forces us to sit quietly and reconsider what really matters, what really counts, what is important in life. All those petty worries, the overblown fears, concerns about our social status, reputation or finances, our small mindedness, the raw tendencies to be easily offended or resentful at the slightest insult, all of these evaporate as wisps of air. They fade away as insignificant and irrelevant in this moment of great loss.
These trivial things are like the weeds in the Gospel. They sprout up in our lives without our knowing and yet like the workers in the field we too often make them more important than they are. Jesus today reminds us to value the wheat in our lives, instead, the goodness that he has planted – good seed in good soil. In the stillness of this moment, remember what is important. Forget about the weeds.
Gerald Manley Hopkins, a priest poet of the mid 19 century wrote a poem entitled God’s Grandeur. In it he rejoices not only in all that God has created, but in what God continues to do in renewing a world that is broken and spoiled, “bleared and smeared with man’s smudge and smell” as he puts it. God can do this, Hopkins writes because in us “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.. (and) the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”
All of this suggests that it is in attending to the wheat and not the weeds in our lives, attending to the dearest freshness deep down things that we can begin to offer comfort in this moment of deadly silence. Our comfort comes not in words but in the witness to our belief that just as God is now pouring the risen life of Christ into Wyatt, that same new life is spilling over into us. We believe that the same Risen Lord Wyatt now stands before wants to transform us as well, to make a difference
in how we live our lives,
in how we treat one another,
in being a little more free in pushing aside the weeds, the pettiness, the small mindedness, the self-centeredness that has sprouted up in God knows how and how many ways in our lives,
in being more open to Christ’s Spirit calling forth the dearest freshness deep down things that God has planted long before weeds were sown.
In doing all of this, we can strengthen John and Lori in their first stirrings of faith that Wyatt is rising, for they will see that same new life rising in us.
Bread will once again be presented for our celebration of the Eucharist this morning. Bread is made in the crushing of grains of wheat. We will offer this bread, bless, break, and share it with one another. Jesus tells us to see this bread as our life with him. It is made of all the crushing moments in our very fragile, vulnerable and mortal human life. Yet, as we make it our Eucharist transformation takes place, both in the bread and in us.
As we offer this bread today, we offer lives crushed by a great loss. But, once again we boldly call on Christ’s ever brooding and bright winged Spirit to bless our bread-like lives, so that transformed, we will have the courage to let them be broken and shared for others.
Wyatt understood that. It was the Eucharist that transformed his life, so that he could share it even to the point of his own death, a death that came while tending the wounds of another.
We come here in silence, stilled in the death of one of our own, aware that what happens to one happens to all. Yet, we also believe that something else is happening to Wyatt and us, for “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things” and the power of Christ’s Spirit broods over us. Let our witness of the transforming power of the Risen Lord in our lives be the comfort we offer to John and Lori. Let the tender faith stirring in their hearts, trusting that God is now pouring the life of the Risen Lord into their son, be confirmed as they see how that new life, so abundantly given, is spilling over to transform us.
What happens to one happens to all. When one suffers we all suffer. When one rises, we all rise.
Bishop Blase Cupich