Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, offered the Homily at today's funeral for Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan.
The following is the Bishop's homily in its entirety:
"With Tommy’s parents, Betty and Jerry, his sister Diane, her husband John, his brother Joe and Tommy’s nieces Mary Kate, Nikki and Chloe, his nephew Connor we come together in Holy Cross Church today to express our gratitude to God for giving us this wonderful son, brother, uncle, friend and child of God who was at the depths of his heart a dedicated Marine.
United in our grief at Tommy’s tragic death, we ponder the question “why.” Why did this happen to Tommy, his fellow Marines, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire Wells and Navy petty officer Randall Smith, good men who sought to serve their country in a most honorable way?
The outpouring of support that has come from the people of Springfield and our Western Massachusetts area has shown us how much Tommy’s life and his fellow servicemen’s lives mean to all of us who benefit from their ultimate sacrifice.
Another man who questioned the presence of evil and death in our world was the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, whose name was Quoheleth. We know little about him, except for his writing that made its way to be part of Sacred Scripture, our first reading today. His words about the changing of seasons, the times of life, both good and bad, are the most well-known of anything he wrote.
These words of deep thought reflect on the inevitabilities of life, the many changes that surround us and yet the one constant that Tommy knew so well in his life, that God’s love and presence never changes. His deep love for his family, his selfless dedication to being a Marine and his solid faith in God helped Tommy through the many challenges that he faced in training for service, in his deployments to Iraq, in being a leader for his fellow Marines and facing the danger on July 16th, when he and his brothers in service heroically thought of others above themselves.
In a world that can be so fickle, the timeless values that Tommy espoused and lived as a Marine show forth true courage, selflessness and ultimate concern for others.
It is here that we find the depth of love lived as a reality that continues to inspire each one of us, as it inspired Tommy in his life of service for others. When St. Paul wrote to the people of Rome, he wanted to encourage them as they encountered persecution. But Paul’s words do not speak of revenge, rather, they speak of allowing love to conquer even the hatred of enemies. Today, perhaps, it is easy to desire revenge and yet that would not pay full tribute to Tommy’s life and the lives of those who died with him.
A Marine is the epitome of strength and St. Paul tells us that the greatest strength we have as people of God is love. Like Jesus’ teachings, Paul’s words may confound the wisdom of this world, but they ask from us the strength to love in situations like this when hate seems to triumph.
Not an easy thing to do, but Tommy shows us how much of a difference a person’s life makes when self-sacrificing love is lived to its fullest. St. Paul’s wisdom lies in recognizing that real strength is based in love, not in hate.
In today’s scene from John’s Gospel, Jesus is gathered with His disciples at a very difficult time. They are moving to Jerusalem, where Jesus will ultimately face his own death. There is a sense of anxiety among the Apostles, not knowing what will happen once they reach Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus’ own words bring a sense of calm to this troubled situation. “Have faith in God and have faith in me,” Jesus tells them, giving them words of comfort and hope at a time of much confusion and questioning. These words are also meant for all of us who gather here to mourn for Tommy. For Jesus knows the sadness of heart that we feel this day and is present with us in this Mass. He is present to us as we seek His comfort in the depth of our sorrow and pain.
Tommy lived his life knowing those words of Jesus spoken to the apostle Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life” through his service hear as an altar server, a student at Holy Cross School and Cathedral High School. He knew those words as he basked in the love of Betty and Jerry, of Diane and Joe, of his family and friends who knew his wonderful sense of humor and felt the love that he has for them. Tommy knew those words as he left Springfield to join the Marines, in an adventure that he found so satisfying and rewarding by serving our country.
And Tommy lived believing in Jesus’ words knowing that we are created not for just the finite time we have here on earth, but that we are called to be with God forever. It is this faith that brings us here today, to thank God for dedicated men and women who are inspired as Tommy was, to live lives of service for all of humanity.
As a follower of Jesus, Tommy knew the strength of faith that made him an exemplary Marine, a leader and a man of true courage. He leaves with us a legacy that will be forever cherished. Today, we ask God to welcome this hero to his Eternal reward, for he literally gave his life for others. The greatest tribute we can give to Tommy is to emulate the faith and values that he lived and thanking God for allowing us to witness the goodness that Tommy has brought to this world, a light that no darkness can overcome."
Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski
Bishop of Springfield
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